Monday, October 30, 2006

Bush & Leinart Still Connected To USC - This Time In Misery

During the three seasons in which Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were together at USC, adversity was a largely unknown term on campus. The two superstars combined for as many Heisman Trophies as losses. USC was a fixture in college football’s penthouse, with Bush and Leinart as the high-wattage faces of the program. Although the two stars have moved on to the NFL, it seems appropriate that they would share the same perspective as their school when things aren’t so rosy. After the Trojans endured a miserable Saturday, Bush and Leinart followed suit on Sunday.

USC’s national title aspirations took a huge hit with Saturday’s 33-31 loss at Oregon State, a program the Trojans had dominated for decades. Before this visit to Corvallis, USC had won 30 of 31 matchups between the schools since the Beavers shocked an O.J. Simpson-led powerhouse in 1967. After that upset, the school of The Glove (Gary Payton) was no match for the school of The Bloody Glove. The lopsided series was no surprise if you consider the naïve sitcom character made famous by Jerry Mathers. The Beaver would have no idea what to do with a pack of Trojans.

However, despite a stirring fourth quarter rally, the looming specter of Halloween doomed the third-ranked visitors on Saturday. The team in orange and black came out on top. Also, as if greeting trick-or-treaters, USC decided to give things away. Unfortunately, it was the football, not Snickers bars, that they kept handing over to OSU. The four turnovers kept USC from a fourth consecutive narrow escape in Pac-10 play. The Trojans had been in costume all month, merely dressing up as national championship contenders.

Bush’s New Orleans Saints had also specialized in close victories before this weekend. However, the Baltimore Ravens slowed the momentum of the Saints’ inspirational season with Sunday’s 35-22 win in the Superdome. Bush left in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle, which he said will not keep him out of action next week. He rushed for just 16 yards on five carries against the vaunted Baltimore defense, adding four receptions for a mere five yards. He also coughed up a fumble and threw a halfback option pass that was intercepted by Ray Lewis in the end zone. The latter play, involving a star from the University of Miami, had an oddly familiar ring to it: A Hurricane caused havoc in New Orleans, and Bush did nothing about it.

Leinart also had a tough day in a 35-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The game was not the biggest story of the week for him, however, as he became a father on Tuesday. Former girlfriend Brynn Cameron gave birth to a new boy named Cole Cameron Leinart. According to a report from the delivery room, Cole entered the world after being shoved out of the uterus by a fetus with “619” eye black.

Fatherhood did not bring good luck at Lambeau Field on Sunday, as Cole’s dad completed just 14 of his 35 attempts. Leinart was also sacked four times to go with his one touchdown and one interception. The disappointing Cardinals have lost seven in a row, so coach Dennis Green is likely to be on the unemployment line before long. The only Green who fared worse this weekend was Bowling Green, who somehow lost to Temple. The phrase “USC loses, while Temple wins” has led millions of college football fans to suspect that they are being punk’d.

While this was a rough weekend for Trojans of the present and recent past, the outlook should brighten considerably next week. USC gets to take out its frustrations on winless Stanford. Bush, presumably back at full strength, faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who yielded his first NFL touchdown on October 8. And Leinart gets the best news of all. His Arizona Cardinals have the week off.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Los Angeles Angels of St. Louis Spark World Series Victory

In January 2005, Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno renamed the franchise the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The cumbersome name drew widespread mockery from sports fans. Today a geographical adjustment would make the name completely appropriate. The Cardinals are the World Series champions, thanks to the Los Angeles Angels of St. Louis.

Friday night at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-2 to capture the Fall Classic in five games. Shortstop David Eckstein, previously of the Angels, was named World Series MVP. Known for his boundless energy, the 5’7” Eckstein’s position is only half-correct. He is short, but he never stops. Eckstein now has two World Series rings, despite looking young enough to receive creepy emails from Mark Foley.

Game 5’s winning pitcher also came to St. Louis from Anaheim. Jeff Weaver pitched eight strong innings as part of an unlikely stellar postseason. Weaver was basically dumped by the Angels in July after going 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA to start the season. His spot in the Los Angeles rotation was taken by brother Jered, who enjoyed an excellent rookie campaign. Overshadowed by a star younger sibling, Jeff was the Johnny Drama of the Angels. On Friday night, however, he got to raise his arm and yell “Victory!” Fortunately, major league rules prohibited him from taking the mound in Viking Quest attire.

The turning point of the series came in game 3, after Detroit had tied the series at one game apiece. The first two runs of the Cardinals’ 5-0 triumph were driven in by outfielder Jim Edmonds, who was acquired from the Angels in 2000. In addition to his prowess at the plate, Edmonds is renowned for his outstanding play in centerfield. His highlight reel catches are particularly amazing to NFL coach Dennis Green, who rarely sees Cardinals playing great defense.

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman contributed to Anaheim’s 2002 World Series championship team. Since then, despite signing free agents such as Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colón, he has often been criticized for being overly conservative in pulling the trigger on deals. However, Stoneman’s detractors were proven wrong by Friday’s celebration in St. Louis. He had accomplished what they said he couldn’t do: help build another World Series winner.

Scott Spiezio did not come directly from Anaheim to the Cardinals, having played for the Seattle Mariners in 2004 and 2005. However, he was a teammate of Eckstein on the Angels’ championship team. His heroics versus the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series brought back memories of his series-turning home run in Game 6 of the 2002 Fall Classic. In honor of his efforts, the Budweiser Clydesdales are now wearing red soul patches.

The Angels’ influence on the Cardinals is also seen in less obvious ways. Catcher Jose Molina has played in Anaheim for many years, as brother Bengie did before joining the Toronto Blue Jays this season. At some point it became trendy for major league clubs to have a catcher named Molina. Therefore, St. Louis eagerly drafted Yadier Molina, whose ninth inning home run won game 7 of the NLCS. Less successful were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who failed to agree to terms with actor Alfred Molina.

The Cardinals’ triumph is not the first championship aided by an Anaheim-to-St. Louis pipeline. The Rams captured Super Bowl XXXIV in their fifth season since departing southern California. That dramatic victory inspired part of manager Tony La Russa’s strategy on Friday. If there had been a play at the plate in the top of the ninth inning, Mike Jones was ready to tackle the Detroit runner just short of home plate.

The Angels helped to make Busch Stadium a heavenly place on Friday. Although he was not needed, one other member of the Halos was available to help the home team. St. Louis did not trail after taking the lead in the fourth inning. But the Rally Monkey was ready for action, dressed in Cardinal red.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

LeBron, Barry To Star In James Bonds Movie

Casino Royale is sure to draw major box office numbers upon its November 17 release. James Bond fans are eager to see how well Daniel Craig fills the shoes of Agent 007. Hoping to capitalize on the buzz, two sports superstars have announced that they will bring their own version of a suave action hero to the big screen. LeBron James and Barry Bonds will team up as a spy named James Bonds.

James Bonds is billed as the world’s top two-headed secret agent, with Barry’s head being the much larger of the two. LeBron and Barry have proven to be huge draws in arenas and ballparks, so they believe audiences will flock to the metroplex. The franchise players for the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Francisco Giants expect a franchise to arise from this character. No title has yet been named for the initial installment – appropriate, since both of their teams are in a long title drought. LeBron and Barry hope to avoid the disaster that befell a similar pairing of a young NBA star and controversial baseball record-setter - the notorious 1986 flop Olajuwon Rose Saves Wichita.

In addition to box office receipts, both players stand to benefit from the combination. LeBron hopes to follow the lead of Dwyane Wade, who experienced great success after teaming up with a veteran superstar from a team in California. Barry can improve his negative public image by joining forces with a charismatic, marketable young star. As it is, the only way his image can worsen is if he suits up as #81 for the Dallas Cowboys.

The two-headed aspect of the James Bonds character provides a comedic, buddy movie dimension. The LeBron head and the Barry head are stuck on the same body, but they constantly disagree. For example, the Barry head complains about walking too much, while the LeBron head responds, “Walking? I don’t even know what that means!” The two heads even differ on their agent number. The LeBron head claims to be part of Agent Triple-Double 07, while the Barry head counters that they are actually Agent Ground Rule Double 07.

The LeBron head does seem to get the more enjoyable end of the deal. The psychotic villains tend to address the Barry head, preferring the formal address of “Mr. Bonds.” On the other hand, the killer babes usually exclaim, “Oh James!” So the LeBron head gets most of the make-out action.

James Bonds experiences a mixture of sexy women and gunplay – in a classier way than Stephen Jackson. Like the Bond flicks, this movie will also feature numerous memorable villains. James Bonds will have to contend with the likes of Big Ben and The Rocket. The film’s producers are highly secretive with details about the main bad guy of the movie. However, online speculation is rampant that James Bonds will have to battle a shot-blocking San Francisco Chronicle reporter.

To help in the exploits against his enemies, James Bonds has numerous gadgets at his disposal. Gaping with wonder at the toys devised by scientists, Bonds exclaims, “Imagine that! Things created in a lab can give me a competitive advantage!” Most impressive of all are the character’s fancy automobiles. While Bond drives an Aston Martin, the cars of choice for James Bonds are the Kenyon Martin and the Pedro Martinez.

With Barry now in the off-season, filming will have to work around LeBron’s NBA schedule. During All-Star weekend in Las Vegas, the filmmakers plan to shoot plenty of footage in the casinos. James Bonds will be appropriately dapper, with LeBron and Barry squeezing into a tuxedo. However, the character won’t be ordering a “shaken, not stirred” vodka martini. The LeBron head will take a Sprite. And the Barry head will opt for the juice.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Potential Alumni Candidates For UNC Football Job

Sunday evening, North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour announced that football coach John Bunting will be relieved of his duties at season’s end. The decision has been anticipated for quite some time, as the Tar Heels’ dismal 1-6 season has dropped Bunting’s cumulative UNC coaching record to 25-42. While disapproving of Bunting’s job performance, most Carolina fans appreciate the love and enthusiasm the UNC alumnus has shown toward his alma mater.

It is likely that the next coach will come from outside the Tar Heel family. However, numerous well-known individuals who attended Carolina could be intriguing candidates. Julius Peppers, Willie Parker, and others are busy with the NFL at the moment, and the same is true for NBA notables such as Rasheed Wallace and Vince Carter. However, perhaps one of these prominent Tar Heels will be available for duty in Kenan Stadium next fall.

Lewis Black: With the Daily Show correspondent in charge, players would be unfazed by hostile crowds. He’s louder than any opposing stadium.

Larry Brown: The last time UNC football was led by a Coach Brown, the Tar Heels were in the top 10. Larry would also be successful, as long as Isiah Thomas isn’t in charge of recruiting.

Billy Crudup: His voiceovers could inspire the quarterbacks: “Completing a pass to a player on your own team: Priceless.”

Rick Dees: Right now Bunting is a lame duck. So it would be fitting to replace him with the guy who brought us “Disco Duck.”

Matt Doherty: The football team is usually in the shadow of the Carolina hoopsters. Doherty has proven that he can divert fans’ attention from the basketball team.

John Edwards: The law school alum is also an NC State grad, so he could be up for Chuck Amato’s job as well. He should not have John Kerry on his staff - together, they can’t win in the south.

Louise Fletcher: As Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, she kept the nutcases under control. Actually, they need her more at Miami.

Peter Gammons: He could take his Baseball Tonight colleagues with him, with John Kruk as the conditioning coach.

Andy Griffith: As the team runs onto the field, the theme from his show would play instead of “Hell’s Bells.”

Mia Hamm: She’s already a football champion, to most of the world. Plus, she’s well-prepared to deal with injuries, being married to Nomar Garciaparra.

Marion Jones: She’d instill a sense of teamwork, since she supposedly knows a lot about chemistry.

Michael Jordan: If the ground game falters, Carolina could always look to the Air.

Davis Love III: He’d help the defense get some rest, since he specializes in long drives.

Kevin Martin: The FCC chairman could slow down opposing offenses by imposing a five-second delay.

Jack Palance: If he could toughen up Billy Crystal in City Slickers, he should do wonders with special teams.

Stuart Scott: He would never let the team forget its identity, since he insists on shouting “Tar Heel” every other sentence.

Lawrence Taylor: The Hall of Fame linebacker could provide memories of UNC’s last ACC championship season in 1980. For fans, but not for himself – he was too high to remember any of that.

James Worthy: He’s called “Big Game James,” so for the first time in ages, you’d hear the phrase “Big Game” in Kenan Stadium.

In the meantime, Bunting will coach five more games until the season-ender at Duke. In baseball terms, his name gives an indication that his coaching tenure was not destined for greatness. You can’t hit a home run if you’re Bunting.

Friday, October 20, 2006

St. Louis vs. Detroit: A World Series Breakdown

Tomorrow night begins the third World Series in history between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals won in 1934, and the Tigers took their turn on top in 1968. This season, both clubs struggled down the stretch before rebounding in the postseason. These playoffs have been rather unpredictable, but the following analysis sheds some light on what to expect in the Fall Classic.

Ballparks: The Cardinals play in the newest Busch Stadium, while the Tigers call Comerica Park home. If you’re hosting a party for the game, you can’t have a keg of Comerica. Advantage: St. Louis

Wildness: The Tigers are a wild card, but the Cards are not a wild tiger. Advantage: Detroit

Sports-Related City Nicknames: St. Louis is well-suited for the Fall Classic as “Baseball City USA.” Detroit is at a disadvantage as “Hockeytown,” since commissioner Bud Selig has prohibited the use of a Zamboni between innings. Advantage: St. Louis

Ed McMahon: Johnny Carson’s sidekick was born in Detroit. So unfortunately for the Tigers, the city embraces second bananas. Advantage: St. Louis

Rocky III: Rocky used the Eye of the Tiger to defeat Clubber Lang. The Eye of the Cardinal doesn’t intimidate anyone. Advantage: Detroit

Gibsons: Bob Gibson was the World Series MVP for St. Louis in both 1964 and 1967, but his Cardinals fell to the Tigers in 1968. For Detroit, Kirk Gibson won a World Series more recently, as his game 5 home run put away the San Diego Padres in 1984. According to St. Louis skipper Tony LaRussa, no Kirk Gibson highlight could ever top that one. Advantage: Detroit

Vatican City: Tigers don’t get to elect a pope, but Cardinals do. Advantage: St. Louis

College Spies: In Division 1-A, there are Missouri Tigers. But there are no Michigan Cardinals. Advantage: Detroit

2005 Conference USA Basketball Tournament: The Cardinals (Louisville) edged the Tigers (Memphis) 75-74 for the title. Detroit will be in trouble if this series comes down to free throws. Advantage: St. Louis

Guys Named Louis: St. Louis is named after Louis IX, the only king of France to be made a saint. But Detroit’s Joe Louis would pummel that French pansy. Advantage: Detroit

Rivers: Detroit is appropriately bounded by the Detroit River. But even though Missouri does not border Mississippi, St. Louis lies along the Mississippi River. Do they take us for fools? Advantage: Detroit

Charles Lindbergh: Lucky Lindy was born in Detroit. But the Spirit of St. Louis got him to Paris - after a layover at JFK. Advantage: St. Louis

Movies: Judy Garland delighted audiences in Meet Me in St. Louis. But there’s no way she could compete in 8 Mile, rapping off against Eminem. Advantage: Detroit

Roy Williams: In 2005, North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams won a national championship in St. Louis. Lions receiver Roy Williams has no hope for a title in Detroit. He’d settle for one shining moment. Advantage: St. Louis

Music: St. Louis has been a hotbed for the blues and other forms of music, but it can’t compete with Motown. There’s also “Detroit Rock City,” which has often inspired Tigers manager Jim Leyland to wear Kiss makeup in the dugout. Advantage: Detroit

New York, New York: Both World Series participants eliminated a New York team. But the Cardinals had to beat the one without A-Rod. Advantage: St. Louis

2005 World Series: Last year, the winner was an AL Central club with a Guillen (Ozzie). Detroit’s Carlos Guillen hopes that the White Sox started a trend. Just to be safe, he should regularly make comments that offend people. Advantage: Detroit

Tallying up the results, it’s Detroit 9, St. Louis 8. So the Tigers will win a tight series, which goes the full 17 games.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Slogans For the Raiders

Since a blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, the once-mighty Oakland Raiders have fallen to the bottom of the NFL. For many years, owner Al Davis has defined the franchise with proud slogans such as “Commitment to excellence” and “Just win, baby.” However, in light of the team’s current futility, it may be time to replace those slogans. Below are some possibilities to consider.

Commitment to excrement

Just wince, baby

Sick of the A's losing in the playoffs? Not a problem with us!

Sweet 0 and 16

Art Shell? More like Art’s Hell

The Stanford of the NFL

Nothing escapes from the Black Hole - except for victorious opponents

Our quarterback is on his back more than Paris Hilton

Once it was Howie Long – now it’s 4th and long

We would go back to LA, but they want an NFL team

The Spirit of ’76 – the ’76 Buccaneers

Love giveaways? Check out our offense!

We’re owned by Al Davis, but play like Weird Al Yankovic

An errant toss, a fit from Moss, another blowout loss

Helping opposing players win your fantasy league!

We’re number 1 – in next April’s draft!

We don’t have Madden anymore, but we are cursed

If you thought Iraq was a nation in disarray, check out Raider Nation!

In addition to the slogans, the team’s logo should also change. The Raider figure is currently wearing an eye patch. Now he is demanding that his other eye be covered as well.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Detroit & Auburn Tigers Delight Michigan Sports Fans

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2006 is the year of the dog. The year of the tiger will not arrive until 2010. However, October has clearly been the month of the Tiger for sports fans in Michigan. Tigers from Detroit and Auburn have brought great joy to the state over the past two weekends.

Last Saturday, the Detroit Tigers captured their first postseason series victory since 1984, stunning the favored New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. Simply appearing in the playoffs was a tremendous accomplishment for the franchise, three years removed from an abysmal 43-119 season. In 2003, the idea of the Tigers beating the Bronx Bombers in a playoff series was laughable. However, the post-game celebration in Comerica Park showed an image that seemed even more ridiculous to music fans: a successful pairing of Kenny Rogers and Motown.

The celebration was even better for Detroit yesterday. Magglio Ordonez slammed a walk-off home run to cap a 6-3 victory and a four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s in the American League Championship Series. The euphoria that ensued was ironic in light of the recipient of the ALCS MVP award: Placido Polanco, whose first name is Spanish for “calm.” However, skipper Jim Leyland is an even bigger reason the World Series will be opening in Detroit next Saturday. The name Leyland is translated as “chain-smoker who manages his tail off.”

In addition to the nearby Tigers on the diamond, fans in Ann Arbor have also benefited from the gridiron Tigers from Auburn the past two Saturdays. Last week, the second-ranked Tigers did Michigan a favor by falling flat against Arkansas, 27-10. However, yesterday they rebounded to take down new #2 Florida, 27-17. The second spot in the rankings has proven to be very unlucky, as Notre Dame and Texas also fell from that perch in September. This college football season would be perfect for Dr. Evil, who consistently disrespected Number 2.

Thanks to the Auburn Tigers’ results the past two weeks, Michigan controls its own destiny for a spot in the BCS national championship game. The Wolverines are likely to be third in the initial BCS rankings, but they will have the opportunity to jump ahead of #1 Ohio State when the teams meet November 18 in Columbus. Despite the absence of injured star Mario Manningham, Lloyd Carr’s unit stayed undefeated with Saturday’s 17-10 road victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions. The game represented a familiar sight for sports fans in Michigan: a football game lost by the Lions.

The downtrodden NFL franchise in Detroit has noticed the positive effect of Tigers on local sports fans. The Lions are hoping to sign a beloved Tiger who hails from Michigan. However, management is reportedly far from an agreement with Battle Creek native Tony the Tiger. The cereal icon apparently remains skeptical about the team’s commitment to winning, remarking, “They’re grrreatly disappointing!”

The sports world’s most famous Tiger is not in action this weekend. However, in a few years Tiger Woods is expected to provide another reason for Michigan sports fans to celebrate. It is only a matter of time before Woods wins his 19th major championship to surpass the record of Jack Nicklaus. Tiger will therefore accomplish exactly what the Wolverines hope to do in The Horseshoe next month: knock the Ohio State Buckeyes from the top.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How The NFL Relates To Thursday Night TV

Tonight on Fox, the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals begin the National League Championship Series. At first glance, the other networks do not appear to feature sports in their Thursday night lineups. However, a closer look reveals that the shows on ABC, CBS, CW, and NBC all address this weekend’s action in the National Football League. Here’s how the NFL relates to each series, listed by Eastern and Pacific times.


8:00 Ugly Betty: Insulting name applied by Tennessee Titans defenders to Washington Redskins running back Ladell Betts.

9:00 Gray’s Anatomy: The NFC West showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams has an unexpected disruption. Seattle guard Chris Gray suddenly goes streaking, displaying his anatomy to the entire Edward Jones Dome.

10:00 Six Degrees: The expected game-time temperature in Denver for the Broncos’ Sunday night matchup with Oakland.


8:00 Survivor: Detroit Lions president Matt Millen continues to survive despite another poor start. But the fans have reason for optimism this weekend. The Tigers are on a roll.

9:00 CSI: With some rare free time during their bye week, the Colts Savor Indianapolis. Coach Tony Dungy encourages players to enjoy the city, as long as they don’t go to strip clubs with the Indiana Pacers.

10:00 Shark: A hockey player in San Jose, where fans of the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers can see a local sports team with a chance to win.


8:00 Smallville: Commissioner Roger Goodell stuns Los Angeles by revealing his preferred location for an NFL franchise.

9:00 Supernatural: Roy “The Natural” Hobbs suits up for the Houston Texans against the Dallas Cowboys. An improbable Super Bowl run begins.


8:00 My Name Is Earl: What Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart says to the team doctor on Monday night after too many sacks by the Chicago Bears.

8:30 The Office: Where most of the workaholic NFL coaches will be sleeping this weekend.

9:00 Deal Or No Deal: Numerous Cincinnati Bengals check in with their attorneys regarding plea bargain options.

10:00 ER: Ed Reed looks to get his Baltimore Ravens back on the winning track against the Carolina Panthers. ER will go on for years, even after numerous stars leave him.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Things That A-Rod Won't Be Doing This October

The American League Championship Series kicks off in Oakland Tuesday night, as the A’s take on the Detroit Tigers. However, the most notable storyline for many observers is the absence of the New York Yankees. Many Bronx Bombers failed to deliver against Detroit, but a 1-for-14 series ensured that Alex Rodriguez would bear the brunt of the fans’ wrath yet again.

The Yankees’ elimination means that A-Rod will spend another October without playing in the World Series. The Fall Classic is not the only activity from which he’ll be excluded this month. Here are just a few other things that A-Rod won’t be doing this October.

Organize a Columbus Day celebration. The person in charge needs to have experience with parades.

Attend a Halloween party. Bobbing for apples is fun, but A-Rod just can’t connect with The Big Apple.

Play football for Arkansas. The Razorbacks can win a big road game against the Tigers.

Advertise for L’Oréal. No one would believe him when he says, “Because I’m worth it.”

Prepare taxes. He is known as a numbers guy, but only through September.

Star in a Broadway musical. The productions require leading men who draw applause in New York.

Host Jeopardy! On this show, someone actually wins in the presence of a guy named Alex.

Become an assassin. He’s completely unqualified to be a hit man.

Extend Daylight Savings Time. For A-Rod, October is always the time to “fall back.”

Conduct séances. They require the ability to make contact.

Become president of the Lions. A-Rod could not accomplish what Matt Millen has done: get Detroit to lose.

Enter a beer-chugging contest. Participants need to be able to put away pitchers.

Join The E Street Band. They also work for The Boss, but they get a jam-packed stadium to cheer for them.

Write a dating advice column. He’s not the guy to tell people how to get to first base.

Visit a national park. Rangers are relieved not to have him around.

Serve as best man at a wedding. He would have no idea what to do with a ring.

While Rodriguez will not participate in any of those activities, there are two things he might do: suck his thumb and carry a blanket with him. Each October, he has a kindred spirit in Linus van Pelt. Like The Great Pumpkin for Linus, the World Series never manages to arrive for A-Rod.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Why NC State Beat Florida State Again

North Carolina State football fans have made no secret of their displeasure with the program’s recent mediocrity under coach Chuck Amato. However, Thursday night brought Amato the surest source of relief: the Florida State Seminoles. The Wolfpack topped FSU 24-20 for their fourth victory in six seasons over the visitors from Tallahassee. NC State’s consistent success against Bobby Bowden’s teams is surprising to many. Thursday’s victory is due to numerous reasons, noted as follows.

Top 25 Polls: NCSU’s victory over the #17 Seminoles was preceded by one over Boston College, #20 at the time. The Wolfpack’s other triumph came over Appalachian State, #2 in Division 1-AA. Losses to Akron and Southern Mississippi prove that NCSU can only beat opponents who are ranked.

Duke: The Blue Devils are the opposition for FSU next week. Clearly the Seminoles were caught looking ahead to that one.

National League Playoffs: A boneheaded base-running play by FSU’s J.D. Drew cost the Dodgers in game one versus the Mets, showing that bad things were in store this week for Seminoles named Drew. NCSU’s DaJuan Morgan salted the game away by picking off Drew Weatherford, amazingly after intercepting Jeff Kent on the same play.

The Karate Kid: The inspirational 1984 film showed that a young underdog named Daniel could triumph. Thursday, Wolfpack quarterback Daniel Evans won his second career start, silencing critics of his unorthodox “wax on, wax off” throwing motion.

Hurricanes: The Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes were honored at the game. Title-winning Hurricanes always bring pain to the Seminoles.

ACC Championship Game: The loss makes FSU unlikely to play for the conference title. The players are relieved, as the extra game would have distracted them from their academics.

Miller Lite: Former FSU player Burt Reynolds presides over the Men of the Square Table. The Wolfpack took revenge against his school, because he did not invite anyone from NC State to help determine the Man Laws.

Halloween: Every NCSU player was confident Thursday, because you would expect a Wolf to thrive on an October night. There just aren’t many good horror movies about Seminoles.

Out-Of-State Travel: Thursday was FSU’s first game this year outside Florida. The Noles try to limit such trips, as the courts have forbidden many of the players from crossing state borders.

UNC-Miami: Amato’s victory keeps his critics quiet for now. Therefore, the ACC hot seat can focus all its attention on the Orange Bowl this Saturday, ready for Miami’s Larry Coker and UNC’s John Bunting.

Sam Cassell: The guard from FSU provided a huge boost to the Los Angeles Clippers last season. However, they lost each road game in which a Carter (Vince, Anthony) or Finley (Michael) played for the opponent. So the Seminoles were doomed as visitors to Carter-Finley Stadium.

State Capitals: Both universities are located in capital cities. When you got tested on state capitals in school, there’s a good chance you came up with Raleigh. But admit it, you missed on Tallahassee, didn’t you?

Whitney Houston: Her divorce filing has made life rough on Bobby Bowden. Oh wait, that’s Bobby Brown – never mind.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: Last December in Charlotte, the Pack shut out South Florida. Thursday continued their success in North Carolina against the Sunshine State, although they didn’t get free oil changes this time.

NFL Starting Quarterbacks: NCSU’s Philip Rivers has a 96.9 quarterback rating, compared to 75.8 for FSU’s Brad Johnson. Coincidentally, they achieved those same scores on Dancing With the Stars.

NC State looks to continue the momentum next Saturday against Wake Forest. If the criticism of Amato wanes, one person will be even more relieved than Chuck the Chest: athletic director Lee Fowler. After this past spring, the last thing he wants is another coaching search.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Florida Adds Chicago Bears To Schedule

Gainesville is abuzz these days as the 5-0 Florida Gators embark on a huge October. The fifth-ranked Gators will be tested with showdowns throughout the month. Now the slate has gotten even more challenging. Today coach Urban Meyer announced that Florida has added an October 21 matchup with the Chicago Bears to the schedule.

The additional game rounds out a daunting October for the Gators. This Saturday, they host #9 LSU. The following week, they travel to Auburn to take on the second-ranked Tigers. October 28 brings the annual hostilities in Jacksonville with #10 Georgia. With all that excitement, the open date on the 21st stuck out like a sore thumb. Therefore, athletic department officials looked for the best opponent available, and that weekend happened to coincide with the bye on Chicago’s schedule. Coach Lovie Smith agreed to take his Monsters of the Midway to The Swamp. Now the marketing department for UF football is billing October as “Bulldogs and Tigers and Bears – Oh My!”

Many NFL insiders are stunned that Chicago would choose to play the game. With the physical toll on players during the course of the season, the bye week allows a valuable opportunity to rest and recover from injuries. However, the 4-0 Bears are considered major contenders for the Super Bowl, to be played in Miami. The trip to Gainesville will allow them to get acclimated to playing in the Sunshine State. Also, the following two games on Chicago’s schedule are matchups at home versus the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. So those are basically bye weeks anyway.

The game’s predominant storyline will be the return of Bears quarterback and former Gator Rex Grossman to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Grossman has been excellent so far this season, as Soldier Field’s long-standing ban on quality quarterbacks has apparently been lifted. UF is also well-represented on Chicago’s fearsome defense with end Alex Brown, nose tackle Ian Scott, and safety Todd Johnson. Florida quarterback Chris Leak is hoping that their love for the university will cause them to go easy on him, allowing him to rack up big numbers and enhance his Heisman chances. Unfortunately for Leak, however, Brian Urlacher went to New Mexico.

The showdown will represent the most anticipated Florida-Chicago matchup since the 2003 National League Championship Series. Windy City fans will be eager for payback, having experienced heartbreak as the Marlins overcame a 3-1 deficit to end the Cubs’ World Series dreams. Inspired by that series, Meyer has invited Steve Bartman to suit up as a defensive back for the Gators. The Florida coach feels that Bartman can consistently deflect balls away from Chicago players.

At first glance, it may seem absurd for a college team to take the field against a Super Bowl contender like the Bears. The Gators’ task is even more daunting in light of Chicago’s 37-6 mauling of the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. However, Florida has many reasons for being confident about an upset. The Gators have already won at Tennessee, where a team called the Bears (California) was thrashed. Also, while a bear usually would be expected to win a fight against a gator, the one place a gator has a chance is in The Swamp.

Most importantly, Florida is certain that it can take advantage of Chicago cornerback Ricky Manning, Jr. He played college football at UCLA, a school that in April was blown out by Florida in a notable sporting event. Also, despite a home loss to Ole Miss in 2003, the Gators are always eager to welcome a Manning to The Swamp.

Florida will have its hands full before then with LSU and Auburn. After those SEC showdowns, most prognosticators will expect the Bears to have their way on October 21. If the Gators do lose that day, they can take solace from a November visitor to Gainesville – South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. That Gator couldn’t beat NFL teams, either.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dick Vitale Assesses the MLB Division Series

The NCAA basketball season doesn’t tip off until next month, but college hoops icon Dick Vitale is animated as always about the sports world. Also an avid fan of the other “b-ball,” Dickie V is particularly excited about the major league division series. He shared his thoughts in the following interview.

Interviewer: Dickie V, thanks for appearing with us. Let’s start with the NL East champion New York Mets. They cruised to the best record in the National League, but the Los Angeles Dodgers come into Shea Stadium on a roll. How do you see this series shaping up?

Dick Vitale: It’s gonna be super, scintillating, sensational! The Dodgers in the Big Apple – just like their Brooklyn days, baby! When Duke Snider was a PTP’er in centerfield! The fans just loved watching Duke in New York, baby! Which I’ll do December 21 as the Dukies take on Gonzaga in Madison Square Garden! It’s gonna be awesome, baby!

I: Okay…, but there will be plenty of time to talk about the Blue Devils later. Staying in New York, the Yankees are heavy favorites versus the Detroit Tigers. Does Detroit have a chance against the Bronx Bombers?

DV: Justin Verlander was a diaper dandy on the mound this season! And Jim Leyland did an unbelievable job managing that team. But he’s no Coach K, baby! The Yankees are just like the Dukies – everyone loves to hate them because they win, baby! And that lineup – are you serious? It all starts with Johnny Damon, which sounds like Johnny Dawkins - part of an unbelievable coaching staff with Wojo and Chris Collins! They’ll be flat-out awesome as head coaches, baby!

I: Dick, we’re supposed to be talking about baseball here. We all know how you feel about Duke basketball, but please stay on topic. Now…, the St. Louis Cardinals really struggled down the stretch. Can they recover in San Diego against the Padres?

DV: You gotta love Albert Pujols - an All-Rolls Roycer on the diamond, baby!

I: Okay, that’s better…

DV: But I have to go with the Padres and my favorite player, Mike Cameron! His name combines two of my favorite things – Mike Krzyzewski and the Cameron Crazies! The Cardinals have great fans, but they don’t compare to those wackos in Durham, baby! Such enthusiasm! And with perfect SAT scores – they even cured cancer and brought peace to the Middle East, baby!

I: That is completely ridiculous! What world are you living in? Ugggh, why do I even bother? Let’s just get through this. The fourth series pits the Minnesota Twins against the Oakland A’s.

DV: Frank Thomas is awesome for Oakland, baby! He’s the Big Hurt, which is what Josh McRoberts will be in the paint this year! You gotta love the Athletics, ‘cause they remind us that Duke is all that’s right with college athletics…

I: Okay, I’ve heard enough. This was just a waste of…

DV: But the Twins are my pick to hoist the World Series trophy, baby! Johan Santana is a special, special pitcher! And that home crowd will be a huge advantage, going bananas in Minneapolis…

I: Finally! Some actual analysis of the postseason – was that so hard?

DV: It’ll be celebration city in the Metrodome, baby!

I: Okay. Well…

DV: Just like when the Dukies cut down the nets there in ’92 and ’01! Hey, somebody call Christian Laettner! Somebody call Shane Battier! It’ll be just like Durham in the Twin Cities, baby…

I: That’s it! We’re done here!

The interviewer quickly gathered his things and left the scene. Vitale continued to scream, “Coach K is awesome, baby!” while bystanders avoided eye contact. Security soon escorted him from the premises.