Thursday, June 9, 2011

UFC 131 prelims to stream on YouTube, Xbox 360 availability on the way

Continuing its effort to saturate the Internet with its product, the UFC made two moves this week.

The live stream of the UFC 131 undercard� is once again available on the UFC Facebook page and now it'll also be on YouTube.

Unlike some of the mainstream sports, MMA has embraced social media and the Web. White told's Page 2 that he's constantly monitoring his product with the help of Twitter followers and Facebook.

"Back in the old days, this is [stuff] you wouldn't know until Monday," White said. "You'd hear all these bad things that happened during your event, and you'd be like, 'God, we got to make sure this doesn't happen next time.' ... Now, as these things are happening, I have people running around fixing all the problems that are happening that I'm reading on Twitter."

On Monday, White unveiled a new partnership with Xbox 360. UFC pay-per-views can be viewed by Xbox Live subscribers.

Xbox 360 will also be including new media services for users: UFC has partnered with Microsoft to deliver live matches, classic fights, interviews, and behind the scenes video straight to the Xbox 360. No word yet if full UFC events will be available through this service, but the likely answer would be "no," if only because streaming live events would probably put a dent in UFC earnings through pay-per-view.

This from G4Tv:

Dana White from the UFC follow up the lengthy "Xbox, Do My Bidding!" video to show off how the UFC will be be adding a "Watch It Live" app to the Xbox, providing you with stats, enhanced viewing options, and the ability to predict who might win a match

You can watch UFC 131 right here on Yahoo! Sports

ESPN Page2 tip via Bloody Elbow


Sammy Baugh

Maya Moore becomes first woman on Jordan Brand’s roster

The most intriguing question in the wake of Maya Moore signing a landmark endorsement deal with Nike's Jordan Brand on Wednesday is whether she can be the transcendent star that women's professional basketball so badly needs.

Will she simply be an elite player in a niche sport? Or can she elevate an entire league the way the Jordan Brand's namesake once did for the NBA?

Moore may share a jersey number and a Nike swoosh with Michael Jordan, but history suggests it would be wise to wait a few years before making such pronouncements.

Expectations were similar for former collegiate stars Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker when they entered the WNBA and signed prominent endorsements with the likes of Nike, Adidas and Gatorade. Taurasi has led the WNBA in scoring four times and Parker is a former league MVP, yet apathy toward the league is pervasive enough that it's possible to argue both were bigger stars in college than today.

"For whatever reason, the college game for women seems to be more successful and appealing to casual fans," said sports marketing analyst Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco. "I don't know if it's the tradition of teams like UConn, Tennessee and Stanford and the rivalries they have, but when star players get to the pros they just seem to be ignored. They get swallowed up and tend to disappear."

The hope that Moore can avoid that same fate stems from her affable personality and championship pedigree. The three-time college player of the year captured two national titles at UConn and spearheaded the Huskies' record-setting 90-game win streak before graduating this spring and being selected No. 1 overall by the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx.

Whereas Adidas and Nike don't appear to have thrown much money or advertising punch behind Parker and Taurasi, there's reason to believe that Moore becoming the first woman to sign with the Jordan Brand will be more significant. The Jordan Brand has increased its production of women's shoes in recent years and the addition of Moore could signal that more women's shoes and apparel are on the way.

"As a student of the game, it is a dream come true to align myself with a brand that has a rich history in sports," Moore said in a statement. "Like most kids, I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and continue to work relentlessly to reach his iconic status on the court. I'm truly motivated to take my career to the next level as a member of Team Jordan."

Does Moore have the appeal to break through the advertising clutter in a way that her predecessors have not? Dorfman thinks it will be difficult but not impossible.

"She's the type of player that can dominate a game, she has a good personality and she can sell a product," he said. "It will be a challenge to see if she can avoid suffering the same fate as players like Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker who entered the league with a lot of hoopla and just became another star but not one who's bigger than the sport."


John Buck Victor Martinez Paul Konerko Justin Morneau

Headlinin’: Todd McNair, USC scapegoat, will see the NCAA in court

Making the morning rounds.

? Lawyer time. Former USC assistant coach Todd McNair has filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the Association of libel, slander, interference with economic advantage, interference with contractual relations, breach of contract and negligence after it denied his appeal to lift a show-cause order that makes him unemployable as a coach because it restricts him from contacting potential recruits. The NCAA issued the order last year in the wake of the heavy-handed sanctions it dropped on USC in response to the Reggie Bush scandal, which were justified in part by the NCAA's contention that McNair knew or should have known about Bush's arrangement with would-be agents in 2005.

McNair — a former running back for the Kansas City Chiefs who was twice convicted in the 1990s for allegedly breeding dogs for dogfighting — has consistently denied the charges, but was let go by USC when his contract expired last summer and stands little chance of landing another decent coaching job until his name is cleared. [L.A. Daily News, Fox Sports, Conquest Chronicles]

? Recurring offseason themes. As expected, SEC presidents approved major reforms to the conference's "roster management" bylaws last Friday at league meetings in Destin, Fla. —�the most significant of which will reduce the cap on signees in a single recruiting class from 28 to 25 —�but stopped well short of matching a longstanding Big Ten rule that limits the number of signees to the number of scholarships available under the NCAA's 85-man limit for the entire roster. Other changes will require medical hardship exemptions to be approved by the SEC office and, in a surprise twist, will ban fifth-year seniors from transferring into the conference to play as graduate students. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Birmingham News, Gainesville Sun]

? Volunteer down. Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers, a full-time starter who finished second on the team in tackles last year as a sophomore, will miss at least part of the regular season after fracturing his ankle last week. Lathers' absence leaves the Vols without a returning starter at linebacker and, with safety Janzen Jackson still in limbo, without any of their top four tacklers in 2010. [Knoxville News-Sentinel]

? When it rains, it pours, part one. On the recruiting trail, Texas landed a weekend commitment from Pearland, Texas, offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle, the eighth member of Rivals' initial top 100 prospects for 2012 to commit to the Longhorns' next recruiting class and the fifth in Rivals' top fifty. The only other school even in the ballpark of the Longhorns' pace on the blue-chip level is Florida State, with five top-100 commits to date. []

? When it rains, it pours, part two. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant, a former top-100 prospect who originally headlined Clemson's 2010 signing class, has been academically cleared to enroll at Clemson after a detour through Hargrave Military Academy last year. Bryant adds to the abundance of riches en route to Death Valley this fall, which already included a five-star receiver (Sammy Watkins), a five-star running back (Mike Bellamy) and two other skill players (tight end Eric MacLain and wide receiver Charone Peak) ranked among Rivals' top 100 incoming prospects for 2011. They'll join last year's breakout freshman, receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and new starting quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was ranked among the top incoming QBs in 2009. [Tiger Illustrated]

? The Rap Sheet, part one. In less optimistic Clemson receiver news, freshman speedster Joe Craig —�also a member of the Tiger track team —�was involved in a domestic incident last month in the apartment of female sprinter Marlena Wesh, who was allegedly struck with towel rod after opening a severe cut in Craig's arm with an eyebrow razor. No charges were filed against either side, but both Craig and Wesh have been suspended from the track team; Craig hasn't faced (and apparently will not face) any discipline from the football team. [Charleston Post and Courier]

? The Rap Sheet, part two. Texas A&M sophomore Damontre Moore, the likely replacement for All-American Von Miller at outside linebacker, was arrested last Friday morning on charges of possessing less than two ounces of marijuana. He was quickly released after posting $2,000 bond. Moore played in all 13 games last season and finished second on the team with 5.5 sacks. [Houston Chronicle]

Quickly… Washaun Ealey lands at Jacksonville State. … Kentucky lands a dual commitment from twin safeties. … More on Bubba Starling's big decision. … Stanford's new media guide breaks out the big guns. … Desmond Howard shows his Twitter followers there are no hard feelings with Denard Robinson. … And the situation in West Virginia is about to go ham.

- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.


Steffi Graf Sugar Ray Leonard Sugar Ray Robinson Ted Williams

Rooney gets hair transplant, promises pictures

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney's rapidly receding hairline has been a sensitive subject for him in recent years. He said as much when teammate Michael Owen cracked a joke about it on Twitter not long ago. Given that, it should come as no surprise that he decided to take action against his fleeing follicles.

It is, of course, none of our concern what he does with his hair. But since invasions of privacy are what they do best, The Sun tracked him down and ran a front-page story on Saturday revealing Rooney's "secret visit" to a hair clinic for eight-hour treatments.

So, Rooney took to Twitter ahead of England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland (for which he was suspended) and decided to embrace the fact that his secret is out:

One look at the reason #hairwego is trending on Twitter and you'll see that Wayne might be confusing jokes for support. But I say good for him. If his lack of hair was upsetting him, why not do something about it? And having a sense of humor about it becoming a story is even better. If only he did the same thing with reports of his prostitute-loving ways.

Wayne later said that he'll send out a picture of his new 'do on Monday morning. Here's our horribly photoshopped best guess as to what he will look like...

Top photo: Reuters


Zach Miller Ichiro Suzuki Derek Jeter Miguel Cabrera

Tennessee’s 2011-12 schedule isn’t conducive to rebuilding

In addition to possible looming NCAA sanctions and a roster bereft of its usual talent, former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl left new Vols coach Cuonzo Martin with one final parting gift.

Tennessee's schedule next season is brutal.

Thursday's announcement that defending Big East champion Pittsburgh will visit Knoxville on Dec. 3 only increases the degree of difficulty of a non-league schedule that now appears to be among the toughest in the nation.

The Vols already were hosting national champion UConn and visiting Conference USA favorite Memphis and Summit League champion Oakland. They'll also be part of perhaps the most loaded Maui Invitational field in history, a tournament that includes the likes of Duke, Kansas, UCLA, Michigan, Memphis and Georgetown.

"I think our guys will be ready for the challenges physically; it's a matter of how quickly they pick up the things we want to do on the floor,'' Martin told the Knoxville News-Sentinel on Thursday.

"Our returning guys want to prove some people wrong who think we won't be competitive. We lost some great players, but our guys continue to work to be champions.''

Tennessee has traditionally played top 20 schedules recently, but the difference is that most of Pearl's teams had the talent to be competitive against elite foes. The early exits of Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris means that four of Tennessee's five leading scorers are gone from an inconsistent team that lost by 30 to Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

The SEC schedule likely won't be any friendlier for Tennessee. Whereas the league was top-heavy last season and mediocre in previous seasons, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama all look like top 25 teams next year with Mississippi State also capable of making huge strides.

Because of the success Pearl had during his tenure, Tennessee fans now expect to win 25 games, contend for SEC titles and make the Sweet 16 on a regular basis. Hopefully they'll be patient with Martin because with a threadbare roster and a grueling schedule, the Vols might be fortunate to finish much above .500.


Larry Fitzgerald London Fletcher Long snapper Matt Cassel

Two top European draft prospects won’t work out for NBA teams

We're now in the thick of the NBA Finals, but the NBA draft is only three weeks away, which means the league's 28 inactive teams are currently working out prospects and formulating a plan of attack for June 23. Right now, that partially involves working out and interviewing prospects to get a better sense of their strengths, weaknesses and personalities.

However, at least two likely lottery picks from Europe won't be working out for individual NBA teams. The first is Jan Vesely, a very athletic 21-year-old forward from the Czech Republic. From Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype (via PBT):

According to his agent, Aleksandar Raskovic, Vesely will not take part in workouts with NBA teams. Raskovic said his client will be in New York on June 17, though, to go through physical tests akin to the ones draft prospects had at the Chicago combine earlier this month.

Vesely pulled his name out of last year's draft several weeks prior to the event and starts for a very good European club in Partizan Belgrade, so he's actually fairly well known. Plus, his strengths of playing hard and jumping all over the place don't really display themselves particularly well in the structure of a workout.

The second player to refrain from workouts is Lithuanian center Donatas Motiejunas, a 7-footer with impressive offensive skills. Gary Woelfel has the news for the Racine Journal-Times (via RealGM):

Montiejunas, a 6-foot-11 power forward, is playing for Benetton Treviso in the Italian League. Benetton has advanced to the semifinals of the Series A League. After the playoffs, Montiejunas plans to attend the adidas EuroCamp June 11-13.

As such, Herb Rudoy, Montiejunas' agent, said his client won't be able to work out for any NBA teams before the draft.

"It's not that he doesn't want to; he just can't," Rudoy said.

I suppose it's good that Motiejunas didn't opt out of workouts because of some fear, but he's also the kind of player likely to impress in the workout setting. Motiejunas looks best when he can show off the full range of his offensive skills, which include hitting jumpers, handling the ball a little, and pulling up in transition. Few players at his height can boast such a wide range of abilities. Where he runs into problems is in actual game settings, where his inconsistent effort and rebounding issues manifest themselves with regularity. If most teams scout Motiejunas on tape and not with individual workouts, he could drop a few spots.

Regardless, both players are likely to wind up in the lottery. But their lack of workouts could affect the course of their careers.


Evan Longoria Joe Mauer Robinson Cano Carl Crawford

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

BDL Hump Day Chat!

Go ahead, Dirk. Try to score in between that. Because when you get the ball, they get a lot closer. A lot closer. Creepy.

Speaking of which, this could be the last between-games BDL Hump Day Chat! we could see until fall. Or winter. So now that I've ruined your lovely summer's day, why not click the jump around 3:40, Eastern Time, for the discussion?

(Comments are moderated, so try to get in early if you want your question and/or comment to be seen. We're not like other sites, as we try to get to just about all the ones that wouldn't offend most eyes. Thank you for your participation.)


Roger Bannister Roger Staubach Rogers Hornsby Sam Snead

8th Circuit Court grants extension of stay, lockout a certainty for now

For those hoping that the generally pro-business 8th Circuit Court would somehow see the players' side of things and lift the lockout that has been in place with one minor break since March, it's time for a reality check. On Monday afternoon, the court came down with a 24-page ruling (which you can read here) which extended the lockout on the owners' behalf, and cited the court's opinion that the owners had a solid case on the merits ? that this dispute is a labor fight at its heart as opposed to an antitrust issue requiring litigation.

It was the first real victory for the league in a court of law in a very long time, and sets things up for the Brady v. NFL appeal hearing that begins on June 3.

Related: Sign the Yahoo! petition on Facebook to restore football!

The court first laid out the parameters, as detailed below:

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 8(a) governs the power of a court of appeals to stay an order of a district court pending appeal. Under that Rule, we consider four factors in determining whether to issue a stay: "(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies."

�Then, the court basically blurred the NFLPA's line of decertification, citing the Norris-LaGuardia Act that the owners had been citing all along. Basically, Norris-LaGuardia limits the court's jurisdiction in matters arising from a labor dispute, whether or not the side representing a group of workers is a union, or a decertified union now acting as a trade association. In its ruling, the court not only set apart its own opinion, but also cast aspersions on the ruling given by Judge Susan B. Nelson in the District Court.

The district court reasoned that this case does not involve or grow out of a labor dispute because the Players no longer are represented by a union. We have considerable doubt about this interpretation of the Act. The plain language of the Act states that a case involves or grows out of a labor dispute when it is "between one or more employers or associations of employers and one or more employees or associations of employees." 29 U.S.C. � 113(a)(1) (emphasis added). The Act does not specify that the employees must be members of a union for the case to involve or grow out of a labor dispute.

And that's a problem for the NFLPA's side of things ? the Appellate Court didn't rule that the players had no right to decertify; a ruling that would have been trounced on appeal. Instead, the Appellate Court drew a line in the sand between letter and spirit of the law and told the NFLPA that if it looks like a union, and walks like a union, and talks like a union, that's what it is.

In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin the League's lockout, and accordingly conclude that the League has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits.

In a word, ouch.

The Appellate court then ruled that the entire "irreparable harm" argument, the one on which the entire Brady v. NFL case stands, actually tilts in favor of the league, because it would be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle after a free agency period, leading any lift of a lockout to play out as a de facto win for the NFLPA, whether that was the court's intent or not.

This is a case in which one party or the other likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm no matter how this court resolves the motion for a stay pending appeal. We do not agree, however, with the district court's apparent view that the balance of the equities tilts heavily in favor of the Players. The district court gave little or no weight to the harm caused to the League by an injunction issued in the midst of an ongoing dispute over terms and conditions of employment. The court found irreparable harm to the Players because the lockout prevents free agents from negotiating contracts with any team, but gave no weight to harm that would be caused to the League by player transactions that would occur only with an injunction against the lockout. The court gave full weight to affidavit evidence submitted by the Players, although that proof was untested by cross-examination at a hearing.

The district court's analysis was conducted without the benefit of knowledge that this appeal will be submitted for decision on a highly expedited schedule ? a circumstance that should minimize harm to the Players during the off-season and allow the case to be resolved well before the scheduled beginning of the 2011 season.

Finally, the court spoke to public interest.

In this legal context, we see no reason to differentiate between the public interest and the proper application of the federal law regarding injunctions. In sum, we think the League has met its burden to demonstrate that it likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay, and the balance of the equities does not favor the Players so decidedly that it should outweigh our present view about likelihood of success on the merits.

There are several arguments the players can take to this ruling, starting with whatever the results are when Judge David Doty rules on the lockout insurance case damages. Today's results simply put a certainty to what most everybody already knew ? that we'd all better get ready for the continuation of a long, excruciating fight between the owners and players.


Phil Hughes Cliff Lee Jon Lester Andy Pettitte

Video: Lapierre ‘no comment’ on taunt; Bruins discuss pests

BOSTON — Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre don't have nameplates in the Boston Bruins dressing room, but their presence was felt before Game 3 between the Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks.

"Everyone's obviously talking about their agitators," said Bruins forward Chris Kelly, letting out a sigh as that last word lingered, waiting for sarcastic air quotes. "They're doing their job because you guys are talking about it. But they're not brought up too much [amongst the Bruins].

"And here I am ... talking about them again."

Burrows, long considered one of the NHL's most preeminent pests, changed the dynamic of this series when he bit Patrice Bergeron's finger in Game 1, escaped punishment from the NHL and then factored in every goal of the 3-2 Game 2 victory. Lapierre, just as heralded an agitator, taunted Bergeron about the bite in Game 2.

Here's what Lapierre said prior to Game 3, after the Canucks' skate. Or, more to the point, what he didn't say.

So the Canucks have done their part to get under the Bruins' skin in this series, while the Bruins have yet to return the favor. Is it time for Boston to bug the Canucks out of their comfort zone in this 2-0 lead?

Here's what Coach Claude Julien had to say on the Canucks' pest act:

Q. �The biting incidents have taken on lives of their own. I want to talk to you more about Max Lapierre taunting with the finger. �What do you think it says about sportsmanship or lack of sportsmanship?

COACH JULIEN: �I can't really talk about their team. �I'm going to talk about mine because I don't handle those players. �I don't deal with those players on a one-on-one basis. �It really isn't up to me to I guess comment on it. �If it's acceptable for them, then so be it. �Certainly wouldn't be acceptable on our end of it. �I think you know me enough to know that. �Not much I can say on that.

The NHL rules on something. �They decide to make a mockery of it, that's totally up to them. �If that's their way of handling things, so be it. �Again, we can't waste our time on that kind of stuff. �We really have to focus on what we have to do. �The last time I looked, we're down two games to none, and all our energy has to go towards that.

That's the message from the coach, and it appears it's the message from his players, too.

Said defenseman Adam McQuaid: "We've been focusing on ourselves. Not them. That's what we've done throughout the playoffs so we're not going to change."

Forward Shawn Thornton, whose presence in the lineup was a mystery this morning, said the Bruins shouldn't play into the Canucks' hands.

"I don't know if agitating … it goes both ways this time of year. We want to play hard but you don't want to be the guy who puts his team down. But we have to be better in a lot of areas."

That said, the Bruins do have a few players who can play the pest role. But one of them, forward Brad Marchand, said he's tried to avoid that role in this series.

"I'm trying to stay away from it, for the most part. I think they plays right into their hands. They're pretty good at doing that stuff," he said.

In the end, Kelly said none of the Bruins should go out of their way to find retribution.

"I think some guys will go out there and play their game, if that's part of their game. There's no sense in having guys go out there and all of a sudden be a pest or an agitator if that's not their style of play," he said.

"The common goal here is to win. Not to get someone back for some stupid antic."


Chris Evert Christy Mathewson Cy Young Dick Butkus

Kyle Singler’s latest trick shot video is even better than his first

If NBA teams drafted players on their prowess in H-O-R-S-E, Duke's Kyle Singler would be the surefire No. 1 pick.

The recent graduate and NBA-bound basketball player showed off his ability to sink shots from anywhere on the Duke campus with a video entitled "Kyle Gets Buckets 2.0," a follow-up to his first trick shot video released before the start of his senior season in November. In this two-minute clip, Singler bounces a shot down a flight of stairs and in, sinks a no-look shot over a tent and even buries one while jumping feet first off a 10-meter high dive.

The video's signature moment is what Singler calls "the chapel shot," a shot from the top of the 210-foot bell tower of the famous Duke Chapel. Singler makes a pair of shots from there, the first on a bounce and the second straight through the rim.

It's unlikely Singler's trick shot videos will help improve his draft stock much, but maybe it will help his endorsement potential. If McDonald's someday reprises its legendary Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird commercial, Singler might make a worthy co-star.


Adrian Beltre Alex Rodriguez Jose Bautista Torii Hunter

Messi punched outside restaurant in his hometown

According to reports from Argentina and Spain, Lionel Messi was punched by a teenager as he signed autographs outside a restaurant in his hometown of Rosario. Messi was eating with two friends and no security. After they finished, he signed autographs and took pictures outside with the mob of fans that had spotted him, at which point a kid shouted, "I'm a Central supporter, you're from Newell's" and punched him. He then ran away, chased by a pack of Messi fans (which I imagine was quite funny looking) as Messi himself just left without reacting.

Messi began his youth career with Newell's Old Boys, Rosario Central's fiercest local rivals, which explains why the kid felt the need to declare his support (I guess he didn't want anyone thinking he was a Real Madrid fan).

Given all the witnesses to the incident, I'm sure there will be more on this to come.

UPDATE: Messi told Ole, "I felt nothing and I only learned of it after the hype. Nothing happened." So was he actually hit or is he just impervious to mere mortals' attempts to hurt him?

UPDATE II: OK, so he might not have felt the punch, but he had to feel the lady in the picture squeezing his cheeks. Pretty sure that counts as assault too.

UPDATE III: Here's an eyewitness account from the AP:

"There was a crush of people waiting outside," Pablo Moyano, who was working in the restaurant, told Argentine TV. "There were kids, reporters, photographers waiting … and one of the kids tried to punch him. I don't know if he pulled it off. He went running afterward."

Witnesses said the suspect was dressed in the uniform of a school a few streets away.

Now we are left to wonder how Cristiano Ronaldo got a hold of a local school uniform.

UPDATE IV: Here's video of the incident...

Unfortunately, it looks like the kid wasn't really chased. It also appears he is at least four times larger than Messi, which makes it that much worse.

Photo: AP


Paul Konerko Justin Morneau Dustin Pedroia Ian Kinsler

Puck Headlines: Bolland, Whitney diss Canucks; Malhotra back?

Here are your Puck Headlines: a glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

? At the Detroit River, Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom paddle boards on the water, taking a break from walking on it ...

? Manny Malhotra could be back for the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2, and what an unbelievable emotional lift that'd be ... [White Towel]

? … that said, Dan Hamhuis, arguably the Canucks' second-best defenseman in these playoffs, didn't practice on Friday. Aaron Rome skated with Kevin Bieksa. []

? Spector looks at the first roster for the new Winnipeg team, based on what the Atlanta Thrashers' free agents will do this summer. [THN]

? On the Winnipeg season-ticket drive: "Fear not, insists True North president and CEO Jim Ludlow. If every Moose season-ticket holder purchased their maximum four NHL season tickets as allowed in the pre-sale, about 4,000 tickets would remain at Saturday's opening to the general public. But Ludlow believes that number will be more like 6,000 to 7,000." [Winnipeg Free Press]

? NBC vs. ESPN vs. FOX for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic television rights, and it's going to be a hell of a battle. [WSJ]

? Smacking around ESPN's NHL coverage on the TV side. (It's important to differentiate, because has great hockey voices and news.) [Philly Daily News]

? Lepore with the city-by-city breakdown of the Stanley Cup Final Game 1 ratings in the U.S. Richmond (Va.) and Las Vegas posted better ratings than 15 NHL markets. Expansion time! [Puck The Media]

? Polling Dallas Stars fans on the "least objectionable" destination for Brad Richards. To the surprise of no one, Tampa Bay leads the poll and Los Angeles does not. [Defending Big D]

? The NY Daily News headline: "Three months too late, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is ready to trade Brad Richards." Ouch. [NYDN]

? Dave Bolland called Alex Burrows "a little girl" for pulling hair and biting people. Ryan Whitney said "90 percent of the guys in the league want nothing to do with seeing them win." Jealousy or justified hatred of the Vancouver Canucks from NHL peers? [Canucks Hockey Blog]

? The Montreal Canadiens announced Friday that longtime Canadiens legend and current Team Ambassador Jean B�liveau is scheduled to undergo a preventive surgical procedure next week to repair abdominal aneurysms. He'll need a few months to recover, and obviously we wish for a speedy recovery. [Canadiens]

? Glendale is withholding a key economic report the city commissioned to persuade investors to finance its Phoenix Coyotes deal.� [AZCentral]

? The Philadelphia Flyers "just let their top prospect walk for nothing." [BSH]

? Five questions with Adam Larsson. [Buzzing The Net]

? The Puck Stops Here on the Tim Erixon trade: "Essentially the Rangers gave up an extra second round draft pick in exchange for Erixon.� Since Erixon has first round talent, this is a good move for the New York Rangers. Potentially it could be a very big trade. Calgary is forced to give up a potential laden player for limited return.� The New York Rangers are the beneficiary of this situation and have since signed Tim Erixon.� Potentially this under-reported trade could be very significant." [TPSH]

? Analyzing Ken Hitchcock's candidacy for the Minnesota Wild job … eh, it could work. [Hockey Wilderness]

? Mike Reilly of Shattuck-St. Mary's gives us a glimpse at how easy and restful the NHL Draft Scouting Combine is for the prospects. Yikes.

? A stat nerd look at the Boston Bruins' power-play struggles in Game 1. [Nucks Misconduct]

? Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg of the Boston Bruins on his German fans: "Right now, they're all talking about Dirk Nowitzki playing in the NBA Finals. There's not much coverage going on, but it's special that another German will be NHL champion." [Telegram and Gazette]

? Sadly for Dennis, Dirk is more of a Christian Ehrhoff man. [DFW Sports Day]

? Old man Sinden likes what he sees from the Bruins. []

? Deadspin adds to its ever-expanding gallery of Patrick Kane and alcohol imagery. [Deadspin]

? Interesting comparison between David Legwand of the Nashville Predators and other players in the NHL. "Legwand's closest even-strength comparables make exactly as much, or more, than Legwand. He has the worst zone starts, the highest goal rate, but the lowest assist rate. This past year, Legwand was not overpaid at all." [On The Forecheck]

? The end-of-season report card on Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, after what was an underwhelming goal-scoring season by his standards. [Japers' Rink]

? Nice bit from the NY Times on the Olympic Gold vs. Stanley Cup debate. [Slap Shot]

? The New York Islanders want you to design a T-shirt for Matt Moulson. [Islanders]

? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Judith Enck and Senator Robert Menendez will honor the Devils with an award for their environmental work. We imagine it's for their public service campaign urging New Jerseys to clutch and grab their trash. [Devils]

? Finally … this video is absolutely wonderful, as to young Vancouver Canucks fans turn "Hey Jude" into a tribute to Roberto Luongo. No embedding of the video, so click here or on the image to watch it. You won't regret it. NA NA NA…HEY LOOOOOOOOOU.


Pele Pete Rose Pete Sampras Rafer Johnson

The Juice: His foot hurts! Dickey screams for joy in Mets win

Nine innings, nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. Mets R.A. winner: That's the R.A. Dickey we all love, pitching a "baffling" eight innings in the Mets 6-4 victory against the Braves. It's Dickey's second straight victory since being diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia. Ow, his foot.

2. Escaping the tank: The Fish blew about 11 billion scoring chances before Milwaukee's Josh Wilson connected for a home run in the 11th to lead the Brewers to a 6-5 victory.

3. Texas toasters: Mercy, the Rangers have thrown six shutouts in their past 20 games after C.J. Wilson and friends blanked the Indians 2-0, completing a four-game sweep in Cleveland.

4. Big upset in Pennsylvania: The Pirates actually lost to the Phillies, 7-3, thanks largely to it being Halla-Day. No brooms for you, Pittsburgh.

5. Lackey is backey: The Red Sox completed a sweep with a 6-3 victory at Oakland. Good for John Lackey, who was coming off a stint on the DL due to a strained right elbow.

6. Deja Pujols: For two straight games, the Cubs went after Albert Pujols in extra innings ? and twice he bit them hard, leading the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory in 10.

7. Sing it proud: Who's the hottest pitcher in the majors? How about Ryan Vogelsong, who dominated the Rockies for eight innings in a 2-1 Giants victory. Vogelsong, who was this close to another career before latching on with San Francisco this spring, has allowed one run, or none, in each of his past six starts.

8. Souvenirs: The Yankees hit three homers, two by Mark Teixeira, in a 5-3 victory against the Angels. Hopefully, Torii Hunter stayed out of the stands this time.

9. Hey, sailors: Miguel Olivo has homered in three straight games, and the Mariners keep rolling, beating the Rays 9-6. Seattle, somehow, is 31-28.

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Cincinnati-Ohio State is a forgotten rivalry in need of revival

They're two of the nation's most tradition-rich college basketball programs. They're both consensus preseason top 25 teams next season. And their campuses are separated by a mere two-hour drive.

Yes, everything is in place for Ohio State and Cincinnati to have one of the sport's best rivalries with one notable exception: They haven't scheduled one another in 48 of the past 49 years.

At a time when most cash-strapped athletic departments are desperate for new revenue streams, Cincinnati and Ohio State continue to leave an obvious one untapped. Since the Bearcats won back-to-back national title games at the expense of the Buckeyes in 1961 and 1962, the two programs have met just once, a 72-50 Ohio State rout on a neutral floor in December 2006.

Sixth-year Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin says it's Ohio State's unwillingness to schedule the Bearcats that has short-circuited attempts to revive the long-dormant rivalry. Though he's adamant his program will be fine without playing Ohio State and he's wary of coming across as "the little brother whining," Cronin says without hesitation that a series between the Bearcats and Buckeyes would benefit both schools.

"It would be a yearly event just like Louisville and Kentucky, but I don't see it happening," Cronin said. "I have friends that have coached at Ohio State and they were basically told, 'You're not playing Cincinnati.' It's been a longstanding historical decision from their school."

Cincinnati isn't the only prominent Ohio program that has been unable to coax the Buckeyes into agreeing to a game. Ohio State also traditionally hasn't played Dayton or Xavier, scheduling the Flyers only four times in the late 1980s as a result of a friendship between the coaches and facing the Musketeers only twice since 1935, both times in the postseason.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta said through a spokesman he prefers that the marquee games on his team's schedule come against out-of-state opponents to maximize exposure.

Like most elite programs from major conferences, the Buckeyes play roughly eight to 10 guarantee games per year in which they pay smaller schools to come to Columbus in exchange for a likely victory and maximum ticket and concessions revenue. The remainder of the non-league schedule is traditionally prominent made-for-TV matchups, games that Matta prefers to reserve for the likes of Florida, Florida State or Butler rather than in-state foes.

"Scheduling is something we work on continuously," Matta said. "We try to put together the best possible schedule for our program and our fans each year. Our philosophy has been to schedule home-and-home series outside the state of Ohio to give our program more national exposure whenever possible."

Related: Four more dormant non-league rivalries worth resuscitating

It's because of Ohio State's scheduling approach that a historic upset from 50 years ago is still the most memorable matchup between the Buckeyes and Bearcats. In the 1961 national title game, Cincinnati stunned a top-ranked Ohio State team featuring future pros Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek thanks to an inspired performance from unheralded senior forward Bob Wiesenhahn.

Trainers were taping up Wiesenhahn hours before tipoff when he heard an analyst on the radio suggest that Havlicek would dominate the head-to-head matchup against him. Still fuming about the slight when the game began that night, Wiesenhahn made it his personal mission to neutralize the taller, stronger Havlicek, outscoring him 17-4 to lead Cincinnati to a 70-65 overtime victory.

"We didn't look ahead, but we wanted to beat Ohio State bad, no doubt about it," Wiesenhahn said. "They were No. 1. They got all the press. It was fun for us to get a chance to show what we could do against them."

TV networks surely would have demanded an Ohio State-Cincinnati series in the modern era after they faced off in back-to-back national title games, but neither program pushed for such a matchup at the time.

Any interest the Buckeyes had initially waned in ensuing years as the Bearcats regressed, making the NCAA tournament just three times in the 1970s and not once in the 80s. Ohio State balked at playing a middling team from a less prestigious league, an attitude that has survived to this day even though Cincinnati flourished under Bob Huggins and eventually earned a spot in the Big East.

"I don't think it was a philosophical thing, or at least I was never told who I couldn't schedule," said Eldon Miller, Ohio State's coach from 1976-86. "It's really an individual thing based on who the coach is at the time and what their preference is."

Related: UNLV coach hopes series with Arizona revitalizes once-great rivalry

The lone time Ohio State and Cincinnati did meet in the past 49 years was under the worst possible circumstances for the Bearcats.

Outgoing Cincinnati athletic director Bob Goin approached Ohio State in late 2005 about scheduling a game at the Wooden Tradition in Indianapolis the following year even though the Bearcats had just fired Huggins and lacked their usual talent. Ohio State chose that time to finally accept Cincinnati's offer and then delivered a 72-50 beatdown, one of the Bearcats' most humbling moments from a difficult 11-19 season.

Why would Goin choose that transitional period to reach out to Ohio State? And why would the Buckeyes agree to play Cincinnati that season but not before or since? Cronin has his suspicions, but he'll only hint at them.

"The contract was signed by the outgoing athletic director two weeks after Bob Huggins was fired," Cronin said. "Surmise what you want to surmise on that one."

What's frustrating to Cronin and others at Cincinnati is they feel a series between the Bearcats and Buckeyes could be a showcase for both programs the way other regional non-conference rivalry games are.

The annual Kentucky-Louisville showdown aired nationally on CBS last season and traditionally has been the most anticipated regular-season game on both teams' schedules since the series resumed in 1984. Marquette-Wisconsin also draws attention nationwide when both teams are good, as does Memphis-Tennessee, Illinois-Missouri or Xavier-Cincinnati for that matter.

Cronin would love for Ohio State-Cincinnati to one day be mentioned in the same breath as those other rivalries, but he's not optimistic it will happen anytime soon.

"The game would help both of us, but if they don't want to play, they don't want to play," Cronin said. "I'm not whining. Life goes on. Our program has rebounded from a tough coaching transition and we're doing great. If they're not interested, that's their choice."


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The Juice: Marlins beat Arizona, but we salute D’backs anyway

Nine innings, nine items to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. The month nobody saw coming: Anibal Sanchez, Logan Morrison (pictured) and the Florida Marlins stopped Arizona's winning streak at seven with a 5-2 victory Tuesday night, but the Diamondbacks still finished May with a 19-9 record and in first place in the NL West. Howtheydothat?

2. Skip to my St. Lou: Little Skip Schumaker had a little infield hit to cap a three-run rally in the eighth for the St. Louis Cardinals, who jumped the Giants 4-3.

3. MarmLOL: Whoa, Carlos Marmol had a blowout; the Houston Astros nicked him for six runs in the ninth, coming from behind to beat the Cubs 7-3 at Wrigley. Twenty-year-old Jordan Lyles had a nice debut for Houston, too: One earned run allowed and five hits (with no walks) in seven innings.

4. Longo go longo: Evan Longoria, back hitting in the middle of the order, lined a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning to propel Tampa Bay to a 5-4 victory against the Rangers. I'm not sure 84-year-old lefty Arthur Rhodes is the matchup that manager Ron Washington wanted there.

5. Fenway Park, home of the ... White ... Sox?: They won in Boston again ? their 12th win in 14 games at Fenway ? behind a lot of offense and another strong outing by Phil Humber, beating the Red Sox 10-7.

6. Sailing the high seas in style: Thanks to three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth Pittsburgh Pirates, took out the Mets and R.A. Dickey 5-1. One more road victory ? just ONE more ? and the Bucs equal ? EQUAL ? their total from 2010, when they went 17-64 away from PNC Park.

7. Smoak on the Wieters: Justin Smoak's eighth-inning three-run homer trumps Matt Wieters' solo shot in Seattle's 3-2 victory against Baltmore. Wieters and Smoak were high school chums in So. Carolina, you know? Imagine that lineup. Two-ninths of it, anyway.

8. Off a Cliff: Danny Espinosa and Washington Nationals, they smacked Cliff Lee around like he's on the pay-no-mind list in a 10-2 thrashing of the Phillies. Espinosa had two homers in becoming the first guy to take Lee and Roy Halladay deep this season.

9. Sound-a-likes: Zack Greinke was better than Chad Reineke (where's Zach Kroenke when you need him?), and Corey Hart hit a home run at night helping the Brewers beat the Reds 7-2 and improve to 9-18 on the road.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Royals shuffle the bullpen: Soria out as closer, Crow in

It's one thing to blow a save because of a few cheap hits, a defensive error or a bad umpiring call. But when you're handing away ballgames through a constant stream of gopher balls, you don't give your manager much choice.

The Joakim Soria batting-practice tour continued Monday afternoon, as the struggling KC reliever blew his third save of the last week. Torii Hunter's two-run homer cost the Royals the ballgame, and Soria went on to allow a third run. All of Soria's recent collapses have come courtesy of the homer; Nelson Cruz got him in Texas on Sunday and Adam Jones connected in Baltimore last week. The struggles don't come as any great surprise; Soria's velocity has been down all year, and his walk/strikeout numbers are a mess. He's been a closer on the brink for all of May.

Ned Yost decided to make a change after the game, naming Aaron Crow his new closer. Yost, of course, gave Soria a vote of confidence about 15 hours ago, but we live in a society driven by recent results. Crow seems worthy of the assignment; he's carrying a 1.33 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, with 26 strikeouts over 27 innings. The key for him will be handling the platoon split; lefties are batting .271 against Crow, while righties are a paltry .122.

Update, 9:30 pm: Yost's post-game quotes suggest the Soria demotion is intended to be temporary. Maybe that's wishful thinking, maybe it isn't. Let's go to for some post-game reaction:

"We've gotten to a point where we'll back Jack off now," Yost said. "We'll give him a break. He's pitched back-to-back days, 40-something pitches in two days. We'll give him a break [Tuesday] and get him back -- with the sense of getting him back into the closer's role -- but getting him in situations where maybe he can throw multiple innings in less pressure situations."

Soria, to his credit, was a stand-up guy about the situation.

"After the game, I went to his office and told him it's the right time to do it when I close games," Soria said. "I don't want to be a part of this losing streak. The team is playing really good. They need a man that can go after them and right now, obviously, it's not that I want to lose the games."

The advice remains the same. Get Crow where you can. Bench Soria. Chase those saves.

Image courtesy Associated Press


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Kobe Bryant butts heads, literally, with his respected trainer

We're not going to tell you that the Black Mamba is lying in wait. No, we'll leave that to hacky magazines, and writers quick to forget what several other teams and players have done over the course of 2010-11.

What we can relay to you is the fact that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant gutted through a miserable year this season. His usage rate needlessly shot up as he assumed too much of his team's offense, routinely, all while rarely practicing due to an extremely painful left knee injury that requires constant care, and constant (hide your eyes) draining of the fluid that builds up due to overuse.

Save for the 2004-05 season, Bryant has been in the playoffs every year since he entered the league in 1996-97; and for history's sake let's remind that this was a year that saw the normally hirsute Shaquille O'Neal fail miserably in growing a goatee because Shaq was way too young. Not only that, but Kobe has played deep into the playoffs most of those years, at worse running seven and then five games into a first-round series in 2006 and 2007; 48,310 total minutes played, if you count postseason minutes. And Kobe does.

Things are catching up, though. Kobe's Lakers, I'm sorry, should be in the Finals right now. And while there were other factors to blame for his team's second-round loss, it's hard to get away from the fact that Bryant seemed powerless at stopping the Dallas Mavericks while he went away from his team's offense to hoist jumper after long jumper. 2011-12, whenever it happens, will loom large.

And Lakers trainer Gary Vitti, as has been the case since 1984, will help the luminous loom. He'll be the guy working with Kobe, as he has since Bryant was 17, helping Bryant attempt to return to form.

Last week, Mike Trudell sat down for an engaging Q and A with Vitti, going over all things mostly Kobe, and detailing what will be a painful, and exacting rehab.

From Trudell's piece:

MT: OK then, circling back to Kobe … it seems obvious, but how tough is he?
Vitti: Kobe is the toughest player that I've ever worked with in any sport. It's a fact. Kobe, no matter what happens to him, tries to figure out a way to play with it. Maybe his greatest asset is when he steps on the floor, he focuses on the task of playing basketball, instead of focusing on the injury. For instance, somebody tweaks or rolls their ankle and is still on the court trying to play, but they keep looking down at their ankle. Well, looking down at it isn't going to make it feel any better. You can look at it all you want, it's not going to change. But obviously, the fact that they're looking down at it means they're focusing on it. Kobe seems to be able to block that pain out. The ankle still hurts, but he doesn't focus on it. He focuses on catching and shooting, the tasks of the game.

Now, this swings both ways. You certainly don't want a player handicapping his team as he drags a leg around, and even if 80 percent of Kobe is still better than 80 percent of the NBA, this still isn't the smartest thing to do.

And yet, for years, Bryant has made it work. Our main criticism, for his entire career, has been about his shot selection, which we believe betrays his immense basketball smarts. So it goes. So he goes.

Back to Trudell's column:

MT: I'd imagine that he has considerably more leeway than anyone else?
Vitti: That's right. You have to trust him, for the most part, and that's just not the same trust level you have with everybody else. I don't know how to tell you that I know, but I know. I just know. He looks at me, I look at him. We've only had maybe one or two episodes where we've (butted heads). I can't remember where we were, but he sprained his thumb. It looked pretty bad, and he came to the bench and said, "Tape my thumb." I go, "Let me take a look at it." He says, "Just tape it!" We kinda went back and forth, because I didn't want to put him out there with an unstable thumb, because if he really hurt it, it could be a serious issue. So he kinda yelled at me, and I yelled back at him, and I kinda just looked at him, and said, "Hey, I'm your guy," and gave him a little head butt, which kinda snapped him into reality that I needed to look at it. I looked at it, and he was right, he was OK.

MT: Wait … you head butted him?
Vitti: Yeah, just a little tap. It wasn't like, bam! Just a, "Wake up for a second and listen to me!" Then he did, he let me look at it, and he was right. Maybe I should have trusted him, but I felt like this one I needed to know for myself. I have a responsibility to protect him from himself. But in that case, I taped him, he went out and played and was great.

There was a SLAM Magazine piece on Bryant from the 1997-98 season, designed mostly to breathlessly hype up the second-year player (as was the magazine's main function back then), that also gave a little insight into what was a burgeoning relationship between the Laker trainer and the soon-to-be Laker legend. How their repartee, just a year into their relationship, was both respectful and gruff.

Nearly a decade and a half later, this appears to have sustained. Good thing. Because Bryant's going to need this guy, as he drags that leg into his 16th season.


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Half-off Liberty National initiation fee! Now only a quarter-mil!

Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.,�boasts one of the most magnificent views on a golf course. And guess what: As Bloomberg reports, it is�opening its doors to new members with a special half-off deal!

What's the price? We'll get to that. First, think about it: You too can play on a course that's hosted a FedEx Cup playoff stop! You too can share a locker room with Justin Timberlake, Phil Mickelson, Sam Jackson and -- the price? Hang on, friend. Now, imagine teeing off under the watchful gaze of Lady Liberty, and ... all right, all right.

The club has cut its typical $500,000 bond to a $250,000 non-refundable payment, one that can be spread out over a two-year period for the budget-conscious among you. That's pretty steep for most of us, particularly on a course that Tiger Woods once damned with the faint praise of "interesting."

Still, the course has undergone $250 million in renovations to the site, which is located atop a former solid waste landfill. And now, somebody's gotta pay for it. And somebody's gotta play it.

In discussing the course's new look, owner Paul Fireman offered up perhaps the quote of the year so far: "Liberty is not a lady that's just going to say, 'Just take me when you want.' You've got to work for it."

So ... many ... jokes. Have at 'em, friends.

Liberty National Owner Expects Tiger Woods to Return to Revamped Course [Mason Levinson]


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