Friday, September 16, 2011

Will you-know-who win most popular driver? It?s up to you

Will you-know-who win most popular driver? It?s up to youIt's time again for voting on NASCAR's most popular driver, or, more specifically, the Wheaties Fuel Most Popular Driver Award. The field is now set at 10, and all vote totals are set at zero, so everybody's back in the hunt!

Your nominees:

Kyle Busch
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Carl Edwards
Jeff Gordon
Kevin Harvick
Jimmie Johnson
Kasey Kahne
Matt Kenseth
Bobby Labonte
Tony Stewart

Well, there are certain guys whom I can see missing that list ? no names, but you can probably hazard a guess or 22 ? but seriously, no Clint Bowyer? No Brad Keselowski? No Joey Logano? Gotta step up the charm next year, gents.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won this race for eight years running. (No jokes. Come on, we prefer a greater degree of difficulty than that.) If you'd like to keep that streak alive, or bring it to an end, you need only click right here to cast your vote for one of the fine gentlemen above. Have at it!


Steven Jackson

Dortmund?s beautiful late equalizer against Arsenal

Building on the welcome video they put together for Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund continued their Champions League hospitality by letting their guests take the lead in the 42nd minute and hold it for almost all of the second half. Until Ivan Perisic launched a tremendous volley into the top corner from outside the box in the 88th minute.

The match would end in a 1-1 draw and probably prompted Arsene Wenger to remind himself never to declare that "the confidence is back now" before a Champions League match again.


Jerry Rice Jerry West Jesse Owens Jim Brown

Told you so: Fan standing by warning sign gets clocked by home run

We've said it before and we'll say it again, repeatedly, until every fan heeds our words.

Keep your eyes locked on home plate when there's baseball being played, and try to track the baseball while it's in flight. That way, you will significantly lower, if not eliminate your chances of being injured, or ? in the case of the fan at Petco Park Wednesday afternoon ? your chances of being embarrassed on television.

The moment happened during the home half of the first inning. San Diego Padres leadoff hitter Will Venable reached out and pulled Matt Cain's second pitch, hooking it down the right-field line just inside the foul pole for his seventh home run of the season.

That's where our fan was standing around, having a seemingly casual conversation only feet away from a sign that warns fans to "be aware" for flying objects (pictured above left behind the fan). The well-struck ball smacked the fan and then made its way down the rampway towards the restrooms.

Watch it here:

Yup, looked like a head shot to me. Though it may have actually hit the fan's head and then shoulder, or just the shoulder. Either way, that's going to sting for awhile, but probably not as much as the flack he'll catch from his friends when they see the clip.

As for the ballgame itself, Bruce Bochy did change his mind�Wednesday�morning and inserted rookie first baseman Brett Pill in the lineup after homering in his major league debut Tuesday night. Pill would homer again, joining John Bowker as the only two Giants to homer in their first two career games.

However, later in the game, Venable made another big impact by throwing Pill out at the plate when he attempted to score on Pat Burrell's medium fly ball to right field. That would be San Francisco's final offensive threat as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Padres, and lost a full game in the standings after the Arizona Diamondbacks knocked off the Colorado Rockies by a score of 5-3.

Follow Mark on Twitter ? @Townie813 ? and engage the Stew on Facebook

Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
? Ten years after 9/11, athletes give their first-person accounts
? Russian hockey team cancels season after plane crash
? Long jumper loses meet because of ponytail


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Carlos Tevez stripped of captaincy, attempts to eat his children

Despite his moaning, Man City couldn't work out a deal to send Carlos Tevez closer to his family during the transfer window. So before Saturday's match against Wigan, Roberto Mancini announced that though he was forced to stay, he would not remain the club's captain.

From the AP:

"The captain is Vinny Kompany," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "The reason is simple. Carlos in the summer wanted to leave the club for family reasons.

"I respected his opinion to leave the club, but Carlos is here now, we didn't find any solution for him. He is a fantastic player for us because he can score 20 goals in one year, but I decided in the summer Vinny was the captain."

And Carlos promptly celebrated losing the armband by missing a penalty 18 minutes into Man City's 3-0 win. But the good news for Carlos was that his beloved family came to visit. And before the match, he trotted them out on the pitch to show the people of Manchester what all his fuss was about. He then proved his devotion by publicly attempting to eat his youngest daughter's face.

Photo: AP


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Headlinin?: It?s five days to Penn State. Does Alabama know who its starting quarterback is?

Making the morning rounds

? You'll know when you know, peons. Nick Saban preemptively warded off questions about Alabama's quarterback situation at his regular Monday press conference, telling reporters he still hasn't decided on A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims as a starter and may play both again for the Tide's first major test of the season Saturday at Penn State. McCarron outplayed Sims on paper and delivered 'Bama's only touchdown pass in a 48-7 rout over Kent State in the opener, but both were picked off twice, and Sims was also sacked twice with a fumble.

"We're gonna continue to develop both of the quarterbacks that we have," Saban said. "... Later in the week, as we see how the two guys practice, we'll make a determination as to which guy will give us the best opportunity in this particular game or if there's some kind of combination of the two that would be helpful and useful to us. We'll look at the option of doing that."

Whoever starts in Happy Valley, he'll have the benefit of Ohio State transfer Duron Carter, son of Cris, who is expected to work his way into the rotation this week after his late arrival to preseason practice last week. Saban was openly critical of his receivers after the opener: "I don't think they played fast all the time. I think there was a lot of anxiety." [,]

? Nothing to see here. Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, a former five-star recruit on the verge of a breakout campaign as a sophomore, is expected to go before the NCAA today for a hearing to determine his eligibility after sitting out the Gators' opening-night win over Florida Atlantic. Florida released a statement a few hours before the game Saturday that said Floyd is dealing with an unspecified issue "that is not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida." Coach Will Muschamp's assessment after the game: "He's fine." [Gainesville Sun]

? Can we choose 'none of the above' ? Pac-12 presidents and chancellors adamantly do not want to expand, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, but if it's absolutely forced to move by Texas A&M's pending defection from the Big 12 to the SEC, sources tell Wilner the Pac-12 is likely to accept Oklahoma and Oklahoma State even if Texas isn't part of the package. "The SEC won't stop at 13 [schools], or even 14. And if the SEC is at 14 or 16, the Big Ten will do it," a source said.�"At that point, [the Pac-12] would be crazy not to entertain the idea of expansion."

According to another source, the Pac-12 is in "wait-and-see mode," and prefers to keep waiting: "The happiest result for the Pac-12 is if the status quo is maintained." [San Jose Mercury News]

? Tough break. Boston College wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah, a senior captain, is out for the season with an ACL tear after pulling in a career-high eight receptions for 157 yards in a 24-17 loss to Northwestern. Momah ? who actually returned to the game following the injury, albeit noticeably hobbled ?�joins All-ACC tailback Montel Harris on the Eagles' growing injury list. "We didn't expect it to be this bad," coach Frank Spaziani said Monday. "It's tough. He's obviously pretty down about it. And it's a blow to the team, to the receiving corps and from the standpoint of losing his senior leadership." [Boston Herald]

? Get well soon. As expected, Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden suffered a fractured ankle in Saturday's 14-13 loss to BYU and will be in a walking boot "for a couple of weeks," likely ending his bid to set multiple school records for rushing and total yards and touchdowns. His backup, Enrique Davis, will also sit out practice this week after injuring his knee at BYU, but is still listed as a co-stater for Saturday's date with mighty Southern Illinois; in the meantime, two defensive backs and a wide receiver have been moved into the backfield to fill the void. [Clarion-Ledger]

Quickly? Tennessee hires a new athletic director from Alabama, who says you can ignore all that stuff at Florida State. ? Long-jumping receiver Marquise Goodwin is coming back to Texas. ? North Carolina loses fullback Devon Ramsay for the year to a knee injury, after Ramsay fought to have his final year of eligibility restored. ? Missouri's defense is going to without two of its top starters Friday night at Arizona State. ? Michigan expects to have Troy Woolfolk back against Notre Dame. ? Chip Kelly there's still no timeline for the return of suspended Ducks Cliff Harris and Kiko Alonso, though he plans to address it with his staff this week. ? Ohio State-Miami gets a primetime kickoff on Sept. 17. ? Steve Spurrier would like to complete more passes, please. ? A Georgia linebacker is temporarily giving up Twitter after a "nasty" reaction following Saturday's loss. ? And no one was rooting harder for the rain in Michigan than bookies in Las Vegas.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.


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Video: Steve Nash stops by an MLS practice

All-Star point guard Steve Nash has always stood out as a professional basketball player who has interests outside of the game. In addition to the athlete's usual attention to charity, he has co-directed a documentary and shown sizable interest in soccer, a sport he played up until the point basketball became a legitimate career possibility. In fact, he's part-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, an expansion team in Major League Soccer.

Being a owner has its perks, the best of which being that no one else can tell you what to do. So, earlier this week, Nash stopped by a Whitecaps practice to kick the ball around with the team. He doesn't look out of place whatsoever, and even knows to use vaguely British terminology like "kickabout" and "nil." This is a man who knows what he's doing on the pitch.

(Via SLAM)


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lockout news is the same as it ever was. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Last March we brought you some quotes culled from the handbook that the NBA Players Association gave their constituents, preparing them for an extended labor impasse. Titled "Hope For the Best, Prepare For the Worst," the book went into great detail about how to avoid the usual pratfalls of stardom and largesse, sound words for any climate, much less one that will take away your paychecks (as negotiated and agreed-upon by your employers in good faith, fully guaranteed) for an extended period of time.

Moke Hamilton, writing at Charged.FM, has gotten his hands on the handbook, and in light of the recent good cheer emanating from negotiations between the Players Association and the NBA, one passage is worth reconsidering:

But reading between the lines and connecting dots is where the real fun begins. Billy Hunter confirms that he's been privately warning players to prepare for a lockout for more than two years. Want more? How about the fact that?on the NBPA's advice?many players that signed new contracts within the past two years have negotiated for deferred payments so that they could actually receive checks during the lockout? Throughout the handbook, references are made to the fact that some players will continue receiving checks until November 1st, 2011.

(Under normal circumstances, NBA players are paid bi-monthly on the 1st and 15th of each month. Payments normally begin on November 1st and end on May 1st. Thanks to the union's advice, a healthy portion of the union's members deferred half of their compensation so that they would continue to receive checks up until THIS November 1st).

Now, this is a bit of a jump. Just because Hunter encouraged players to defer payments from their 2010-11 and potentially 2009-10 salaries until this summer and early fall, it hardly means the players followed through. And with the sheer amount of players already under contract that are seeking out relatively tiny international contracts, you get the feeling that players took the money as it usually came and just hoped that the finances would be on the up and up later. I know the feeling.

Regardless of the guesswork behind the deferred payments, Hamilton is correct in pointing out that November 15th is the "doomsday scenario" (the NBAPA's clich�, not mine) when it comes to missing checks. If you're a player that deferred your payments, this will be the first payment cycle that you go without getting a check. If you took the orthodox route, and haven't been paid since the 2010-11 season ended? This will be your first payment cycle without a 2011-12 check. Either way, nobody is getting paid. Save for the owners, who will still take in that sweet and equally-shared national TV money, even with no games.

The lockout is in its third month, but it's also coming off its first extended meetings since before the lockout was put in place. Has anything changed? Is there room for hope, as we attempt to accurately gauge where we are in the proceedings? The answers are multifaceted, they involve much guesswork, and they're not too far removed from where we started three months ago.

The hope for fans moving forward ignores the fact that the owners are well-heeled and ready to endure the money lost from missed games this fall. The hope for fans is that the national TV revenue and eye toward a more economically stable NBA future will not be enough for the owners as a collective to pass on those gate receipts, the local TV revenue, and (shock horror) working as a job creator within a large community.

According to sources that are talking to the New York Times' Howard Beck, the players are attempting to do their part. As we've stated before, our belief is that this lockout (as it stands) is overwhelmingly the owners' fault, but if any games are lost? Then it would be the fault of an intractable Players Association. Which is why it's encouraging to read this, even if our cynicism leads us to believe that no actual movement was made over the last week:

When N.B.A. labor talks resumed Wednesday, for an extended session in Midtown Manhattan, officials from the players union opened with a broad premise: Tell us what it will take to end the lockout and save the 2011-12 season.

The union's request sparked a discussion that lasted five and a half hours, which in turn led to another five-and-a-half-hour session Thursday. Both sides declined to offer details, judgments or predictions, and they cautioned the public not to draw any conclusions. But for the first time in two years, there seems to be movement, or at least a constructive dialogue.

Of course, telling the other side that you'll do anything is one thing. Following through on their reply is another. Sorry for going all Meatloaf on you, but who among us hasn't promised someone that they'll do anything to stay in their good graces, just not that.

Cynicism and lowered expectations, while not virtue in most of the real world, is a healthy thing in this area. It's just the lay of this particular land, unfortunately.

The two sides are going to meet again on Tuesday with a broader constituency (more players, more owners) present, and then retire to their respective hidey-holes (the owners are meeting in Dallas, the players in Los Angeles) to go over two weeks' worth of negotiations. More voices in the room will always lead to tougher and more fractured negotiations; and the internal discussions that follow Tuesday's negotiations will only serve to steel up the respective causes of either side, rather than help the two ends move closer toward the middle. Wherever that is.

It's not wrong to be pessimistic, because this is just the order of the day. Even if significant ground has been covered over the last few meetings, significant voices that go beyond sensible types like Players Association representative Derek Fisher or owners' representative (and San Antonio Spurs boss) Peter Holt still have to be talked down, and talked into new concessions. Assuming any have been made over the last week. We don't know, because neither side is talking much.

As Steve Aschburner of, a sensible voice if there ever was one, succinctly pointed out -- "tone isn't content." For all we're aware, both sides could have made significant inroads over the last few meetings, but to guess that an agreement is close merely because David Stern isn't getting all defensive on podcasts, or players aren't sniping to any website that will quote them? That's optimism gone mad.

Once you factor in the two biggest reasons for this extended impasse (two reasons that are no less prominent, despite the tactful tones) -- the players don't want to give back money, and the owners' incentive to give in is dwarfed by their collective ability to hold out -- and we're just about right where we started.

At least on record. If there's hope to be found in ignorance, well, then we must be swimming in the stuff at this point.


Carl Nicks Champ Bailey Chris Johnson Chris Snee

Power Rankings: As Chase arrives, some are pointed backwards

Time for our latest round of Power Rankings. Each week throughout the season, we'll size up who's rising and who's falling, based on current standings, behind-the-scenes changes, expected staying power, recent history and general gut feelings. And while the Chase has started, that doesn't mean it has the 12 hottest drivers running ...

Jeff Gordon1. Jeff Gordon. Saturday night provided us with one of the most entertaining evenings of the year. No, not the race; the press conference. Since we were there and watched every single one of the Chase drivers come through, we'll give you our take on their performances right here. Gordon was the most composed of the lot, briefly ticked that Paul Menard spun at such a convenient time but overall clear-eyed and full-hearted. (Also, Gordon fans ought to keep in mind that if the guy can't win restarts, even dubious ones, he's not going to win Chases.) Last week's ranking: 1.

Jimmie Johnson2. Jimmie Johnson. The assassin. Johnson was one of the last to arrive for his five-man media scrum, and one of the drivers suggested he do the introductions. He didn't even acknowledge the idea, just grabbed a chair and sat down. He's not in a mood for joking around now, and anyone who thinks they're in his head might want to see where they actually are. Don't let his terrible finish fool you; he's still the man to beat. Last week's ranking: 2.

Carl Edwards3. Carl Edwards. Part of the most relaxed panel of the evening, with a chill Brad Keselowski on one side of him and a "no, I wasn't nervous" virtually trembling Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the other. Actually joked around with Keselowski without throwing him into the wall, which still would have been pretty cool to watch. That strong near-victory was exactly what he needed. Last week's ranking: 4.

Brad Keselowski4. Brad Keselowski. Happy to goof around with Edwards and relaxed about his prospects in the Chase, Keselowski was having fun all night, from goofing on Edwards about fatherhood to checking on the Michigan-Notre Dame score after his session was over. If he's upset about losing those bonus points, he certainly doesn't seem like it. He ran well for portions of the Richmond race; he'll need to sustain in order to get back to "dark horse champion" status.� Last week's ranking: 3.

Kevin Harvick5. Kevin Harvick. Harvick had a solo spot for his race win, and he was calm, confident and visibly relieved at having put several months' worth of substandard runs behind him. One race does not a championship contender make, but it's a very good start. If Harvick can run at Chicago the way he did in Richmond, he could stake out his turf at the top of the rankings in a hurry.��Last week's ranking: 8.

Kyle Busch6. Kyle Busch. Nobody on the panel was more thrilled than Kyle, simply for the fact that the controversy had nothing to do with him. In the Richmond race, he ran reasonably well, though his American flag car proved a conflict for many anti-Kyle fans; they wanted to see him in the wall, just not while driving the stars and stripes.� Last week's ranking: 6.

Kurt Busch7. Kurt Busch. You know how he acted, so we don't need to detail it here. Look, let's just put this whole Kurt-Busch-ripping-transcripts thing in its proper perspective: it was a stupid and disrespectful move, yes. The bigger issue is that Busch apparently can't keep his own temper under control even during calm moments. That's a bad sign for a guy who's going to be taking hit after hit while behind the wheel of a hot race car.� Last week's ranking: 7.

Matt Kenseth8. Matt Kenseth. The savior of the evening, Kenseth came out of Richmond's infamous press conference having shown the world exactly how funny he can be. He's had a rocky few weeks on the track, relatively speaking, and since he has a history of running in the high-single/low-teen digits in the Chase, he'll need to step up quickly to make a legitimate run at the championship. Also a world champion stroller driver, apparently.� Last week's ranking: 5.

Ryan Newman9. Ryan Newman. Newman was Switzerland, the neutral party directly in the middle of the warring nations of Buschopotamia and Johnsylvania. He smirked his way through the entire press conference. And yet another top-10 run adds to his strong season and the likelihood that he'll at least stay in the hunt for the first half of the Chase. � Last week's ranking: 9.

Tony Stewart10. Tony Stewart. Sat through the entire press conference just daring someone to ask him anything. I was seriously considering asking him whether he thought, given the rise of Chinese manufacturing efficiency, the weakening of the United States dollar against international currencies, the hardening of theological lines between secularism and fundamentalism and the United States' weakened stature in the court of world opinion truly meant that we are entering the post-American era of world history, but I thought he might call it a stupid question and yell at me. Oh, and he had another top 10 this week.� Last week's ranking: 11.

Denny Hamlin11. Denny Hamlin. Hamlin seriously looked like he was about to cry from relief at making the Chase. Which is a stark contrast from his radio transmissions, where at one point he bemoaned the fact that he never got any breaks and nothing good ever happened to him. No kidding. He was one more caution from just taking his No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota and going home.� Last week's ranking: 10.

A J Allmendinger12. AJ Allmendinger. I can't really comment on Allmendinger's behavior in the press conference, because he wasn't there. And if he'd started his run of strong races in May rather than July, he would have been. Richard Petty Motorsports isn't yet a force in NASCAR, but a surging Dinger and a potential new hire in Clint Bowyer could change all that.� Last week's ranking: NR.

Dropping out of the rankings: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Enough. He'd stayed in the top 12 in much the same way as he'd stayed in the Chase hunt: by virtue of strong early-season performances. But he's not a top-12 driver right now, and even though he's in the Chase, he's not long for relevancy unless he can turn it around quickly.

Lucky Dog: The fans at (and watching) Richmond, who got the greatest race of the season and enjoyed an inspiring moment from laps 9-11 as everyone went silent.

DNF: Greg Biffle, who appeared briefly to pose a threat to win and throw the Chase standings into a tizzy. Alas, it wasn't to be.

Charging upward: David Ragan, who picked exactly the wrong time to get hot. Is his latest top-10 run enough to get him more UPS sponsorship?

Next up: Chicagoland, where everybody's going to be trying to get off to a good start in the Chase. Send comments to us via Twitter at @jaybusbee, email by clicking here, and via Facebook at The Marbles page.


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Union VP accidentally tweets that a deal looks close, claims he was hacked

On Wednesday, the NBA and its players' union held�what appears to have been a successful meeting. No deals were announced (and probably won't be for some time), but signs are pointing towards progress.

Of course, we can't know that for sure, because all involved parties aren't saying much to the media. There have been no quotes, emails, or tweets about how close we are to a deal. In an age of widespread leaks, the restraint has been impressive.

On the other hand, sometimes technology backfires. Shortly after the meeeting, union VP and Knicks wing Roger Mason Jr. tweeted out the following message (image via EOB).

By the look of the closing "How u," Mason appears to have meant to respond a text or direct message to a specific question. Tweeting this update on purpose would be a breach of lockout protocol, and it's unlikely he would want to make things difficult if a deal is in fact close.

So, like, any good union man, Mason deleted the update, denied all responsibility for the message, and claimed he was hacked just minutes later. Because, if someone hacked an NBA player's Twitter, he would send out a weird message that only makes sense as a response. Not, you know, say something stupid like "My favorite food is paint chips."

Mason's message has been widely interpreted as a sign that negotiations are going well, which makes sense given the context of today's meaning. On the other hand, maybe he was responding to a question like "How much time are you going to miss?" or "How long are you going to play in Azerbaijan?" With no reports on the substance of today's meetings, there could be any number of possible rejoinders. It doesn't even have to be a basketball issue -- maybe someone was asking Mason how close he was to finishing "The Wire."

I, personally, choose optimism. Mostly because I would like to make jokes about Mason's jumper being hacked as soon as possible.


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Video: Steve Nash stops by an MLS practice

All-Star point guard Steve Nash has always stood out as a professional basketball player who has interests outside of the game. In addition to the athlete's usual attention to charity, he has co-directed a documentary and shown sizable interest in soccer, a sport he played up until the point basketball became a legitimate career possibility. In fact, he's part-owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, an expansion team in Major League Soccer.

Being a owner has its perks, the best of which being that no one else can tell you what to do. So, earlier this week, Nash stopped by a Whitecaps practice to kick the ball around with the team. He doesn't look out of place whatsoever, and even knows to use vaguely British terminology like "kickabout" and "nil." This is a man who knows what he's doing on the pitch.

(Via SLAM)


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After an adventurous night, Junior clinches spot in the Chase

Boy, what would we have done without drama surrounding Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Chase chances Saturday night?

Going into the Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond, Junior's Chase scenario was simple: any finish above 20th guaranteed him a spot in the Chase.

However, a 16th-place finish that involves three Lucky Dog awards is never simple. But yes, Earnhardt is officially in the Chase.

"Yeah, I'm proud to be in the Chase," Junior said. "I feel like I'm a good enough driver to be in the Chase, my team is good enough to be there.� As a group I think we're good enough to be in the top 10, and I can look back over the season and just easily think of several instances where we cost ourselves 10 or 15 points and made this situation difficult this weekend."

After being involved in Clint Bowyer's crash on Lap 3, Junior's car ended up with a giant dent on the front bumper after he was pushed into Bowyer's car. After that, the handling quickly went away on Junior's car and the front end damage got worse when he�got into Marcos Ambrose. As the caution-filled race finally had a long stretch of green flag racing, Junior went a lap down for the first time.

He then went a lap down again. And dumped Travis Kvapil after Kvapil got into him. And then got the Lucky Dog on the next caution, when Jimmie Johnson wrecked Kurt Busch.

And then the cycle repeated itself a final time.

During the middle of the race, Junior had fallen all the way down to 27th while Brad Keselowski drove his way up to second. That meant that Junior's cushion was down to a measly three points over Keselowski. But Keselowski faded and Junior (relatively) surged over the final 100 laps.

"Brad had to run his ass off to win the race, to run in the top 5 to make it tough on us.� He almost did that, but I felt good.� I knew my team could fix the car good enough, and if everything felt the right way for us as far as them cautions and getting them lucky dogs, getting an opportunity to work on the car, we'd be fine," Junior said.

But let's be honest here, scrappy 16th-place finishes don't win championships. And Junior and crew chief Steve Letarte know it. Sure, the setups have been conservative to help keep Junior in the top 10 (barely), but Junior's highest finish over the last 10 races is a ninth at Pocono.

"We've got to run a different setup than what we ran tonight in the last six weeks frankly," Junior said. " But we had a pretty good run at it going the first 15 races, and for whatever reason we sort of fell off and forgot some things or over?engineered something.� But we need to look hard at what we're doing, what we've been doing, sort of a pattern, find something within what we're trying to maybe harness or hampering our ability to drive the cars as well as I want to drive them."

While the night could have stayed south, the No. 88 bunch did what they've come to do best throughout the course of the�race and salvaged something. But those somethings have to become exceptional very soon if the No. 88 bunch is going to be a serious championship threat.


Shaun Phillips Steven Jackson Strong safety Tony Gonzalez

ACC Preview: Pros keep North Carolina humble and hungry

They return all five starters from last year's ACC championship team. They're No. 1 in almost every preseason poll. They can't go to dinner off campus without strangers telling them they're going to win a national title.

Yes, it would be easy for the North Carolina Tar Heels to enter the new season overconfident, but some influential alumni have taken responsibility for keeping the players' egos in check.

Three times a week this summer, former North Carolina greats like Sean May, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams and Shammond Williams roughed up the current Tar Heels in spirited five-on-five pickup games at the Smith Center.

One of the few times the youngsters left with bragging rights was the day in late July that they won five of seven games. The pros endured some friendly trash talk before delivering a swift dose of humility, sweeping seven straight games the next day and then winning seven of eight the following evening.

"It keeps us humble," sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall said. "If all we saw were the rankings that had us preseason No. 1, we might have slacked a little bit, but having the pros here keeps us working hard. When we have players like that beating up on us constantly, it makes us realize we do have things we have to get better at."

The annual summer pickup games at the Smith Center have long contributed to North Carolina's decades of sustained basketball success, but the format has changed since last year's freshman class arrived in Chapel Hill. Instead of mixing current and former Tar Heels on both teams, the college players brashly requested the regular matchup be their best five taking on the pros' best five because they relished the chance to defeat their elders.

Victories have been rare for the current Tar Heels, but the elite competition and sage advice the pros have provided has been invaluable. The message many of the pros tried to convey to the current Tar Heels this summer was the importance of ignoring preseason accolades and avoiding complacency.

When North Carolina entered the 2004-05 season with similar hype to what this year's Tar Heels have received, May recalls he and his teammates lost focus and dropped their opener against unheralded Santa Clara. May has seen signs the 2011-12 team has the hunger and humility to avoid a similar fate, especially the way the current players contested shots and dove for loose balls during pickup games or demanded rematches to redeem themselves after losses to the pros.

"Us coming back during the summer and beating up on the current guys, it brings them down to earth and humbles them a little bit," May said. "For the most part, we've handed it to them all summer. I think that's a good thing because otherwise their focus can drift and their confidence can get too high."

North Carolina's ability to avoid lapses in concentration will likely determine whether it has a historic season or merely just a good one because the Tar Heels will be the more physically talented team nearly every time they step on the floor. Potential lottery picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller each postponed their NBA dreams and returned to school this spring, ensuring the core of last year's Elite Eight team will be back to take aim at the program's third national title since 2005.

Marshall, whose increased role was the catalyst for North Carolina's second-half surge a year ago, has worked hard this summer to add an improved jump shot to his arsenal so opposing defenders can't play him to drive.

Reggie Bullock, the shooting guard who suffered a season-ending torn meniscus last February, has showcased a more consistent jumper and improved perimeter defense since returning from injury.

Barnes, the highly touted recruit who struggled to meet impossibly high expectations the first half of last season, hopes to pick up where he left off a year ago late in conference play and during the postseason.

And the frontcourt trio of the 6-foot-10 Henson, the 7-foot Zeller and 6-foot-8 McDonald's All-American James McAdoo gives North Carolina a combination of length and athleticism that few opposing teams will be able to match.

"They're going to be good," May said. "My one piece of advice would be for them to stay focused, don't get caught up in reading the hype and come to work every day. Their talent will take care of the rest. If they buy into what coach is saying, they have enough talent to do special things."

As impressed as May has been with the talent, competitiveness and focus the young Tar Heels have shown during the summer pickup games, he would be equally proud of how Marshall responded to a tricky question last week.

Asked whether anything short of a national title would be disappointing given the talent on North Carolina's roster, Marshall insisted the team isn't looking that far ahead and is only focused on getting better in practice. The sophomore did acknowledge, however, that he believes this year's team is even better than the one that edged heavily favored Duke for the ACC title last year and then fell one victory short of a Final Four berth.

"I think we're a lot deeper than we were a year ago and a lot more confident in our abilities," Marshall said. "Last year, we weren't sure how good we could be. This year we know how good we are and we just have to prove it."


John McEnroe Johnny Unitas Josh Gibson Juan Manuel Fangio

Arsenal ?protect global brand? against Spanish lady?s hat shop

Our friends at Eurosport broke the news that beleaguered Arsenal Football Club have grown so desperate for a victory that they've resorted to suing the owner of a women's hat shop in Seville, Spain for trademark infringement.

Arsenal have been fighting Alicia Simon, owner of the Arsenale hat and shoe shop, in court over the name since she opened in 2007 and only just won the ability to force her to change it. Even though Simon, who admits she knows nothing about football, only sells self-designed hats and shoes that have nothing to do with the sport or the club, they fall into the ambiguous "clothes, hats and shoes" category and constitute infringement.

From Eurosport:

But despite the apparent ridiculousness of their case, Arsenal have now successfully persuaded the Spanish authorities that there was a "risk of confusion" between the monolithic English football club and the tiny hat shop.

Simon named her shop after the Italian word 'arsenale', which was the name given to the shipbuilders' yards in medieval Pisa and Venice. Her premises are in Seville's Arenal de Sevilla district, where Seville's ancient shipyards were located - hence her choice of the name.

Simon says she will "fight this to the end." And if you think this is too bizarrely iron-fisted to be true, the Independent's Sam Wallace reached an Arsenal spokesman, who declared just how serious they are...

Via Twitter:

"We make every effort to ensure that, where possible, we do not unnecessarily impact on other businesses.

"However, it is important that #afc protects its global name when & where appropriate."

So, an independent seller of dainty women's hats in Spain (with a name that is not "Arsenal" or "Arsenal Football Club") is not only a danger to Arsenal's global name, but it's appropriate to bog down the woman who owns it with five years (and counting) of court fees. Once again, Arsenal prove that they know what they're doing.

Next up, the club will sue dictionary makers for defining their global name as "a place of storage or a magazine containing arms and military equipment for land or naval service" instead of "a football club that sold Cesc Fabregas and hasn't won a trophy in six years."


Shaun Phillips Steven Jackson Strong safety Tony Gonzalez

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jimmer Fredette surprises girlfriend with an engagement ring

All the female BYU fans who held up "Marry Me, Jimmer" signs at the Marriott Center last season should prepare to be disappointed: Jimmer Fredette is officially off the market for good.

The Sacramento Kings lottery pick announced to the world Friday night on Twitter that he and longtime girlfriend Whitney Wonnacott are engaged. Wonnacott, a native of Chatfield, Colo., is a senior at BYU and a member of the school's cheerleading team.

The engagement completes a wildly successful year for Fredette during which he emerged from national obscurity to become a basketball icon. He led BYU to the Sweet 16, swept the major national college player of the year awards and achieved a lifelong dream when the Sacramento Kings selected him with the 10th pick in the NBA draft.

As each 40-point scoring barrage and impossibly long 3-pointer brought Fredette more attention last winter, Wonnacott received a firsthand glimpse of the pros and cons of fame. She was by Fredette's side at the ESPY Awards and on NBA Draft Night, but she also endured autograph seekers interrupting their dinner dates and opposing fans attempting to distract her boyfriend by taunting her in the days leading up to big games.

Both Fredette and Wonnacott are back in Provo right now, the future bride preparing for the start of classes at BYU on Monday and the future groom working out daily while waiting for the NBA lockout to end. There's no word on a date for the wedding yet, but rest assured there will be some female admirers of Fredette wincing with regret whenever he does walk down the aisle.


Strong safety Tony Gonzalez Wes Welker Zach Miller

Video: Amar?e Stoudemire chills with the bros on ?Entourage?

Warning: Video contains some NSFW language.

Next Sunday, the venerable HBO comedy "Entourage" will bow out after eight seasons at the top of every fraternity brother's TV show power rankings. When the finale episode airs, everyone will have to console themselves with DVDs, or possibly even move on to a more mature show like "Scrubs" or "The Wizards of Waverly Place."

The writers are pulling out all the stops to send their series out on a high note. For a show about celebrity, that means one thing: cameos! In Sunday's episode, we saw appearances from sports luminaries such as Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Strahan, and the NBA's own Amar'e Stoudemire.

The context is perfectly normal: Turtle, friend of Hollywood superstar Vincent Chase, is trying to start a baked clams restaurant in Los Angeles, home of people who love non-trendy food typically consumed by the proletariat. Unfortunately, to get the space he wants, he needs more money from investors like Amar'e. But it's tough to ask for more money when you have already gotten a quarter-million from everyone for what seems like a poorly formed idea. Understandably, Stoudemire is taken aback and confused. Just like the audience, most of whom don't understand how "Entourage" is still a thing.

Still, this appearance must have been a thrill for Amar'e. While critical opinion on "Entourage" has soured significantly, athletes still love it, mostly because it's one of the few shows on television that deals with the concerns of their lives. That doesn't mean it's a good work of art, of course, but it is at least someone relatable for them. In a world where everyone they know wants something, at least athletes got a half-hour of pleasure every week.

(Video via PBT)


Cliff Lee Jon Lester Andy Pettitte Mariano Rivera

The Juice: Brett Lawrie jumps off top rope, elbows Red Sox in 11

Nine innings and nine items (although sometimes it's more!) to get you going. Ladies and gentleman of the Stew, take a sip of morning Juice.

1. Kid can play, eh?: What a great Labour Day for the Toronto Blue Jays. They got manager John Farrell back after he was out 10 games because of pneumonia and they beat the Boston Red Sox 1-0 in 11 innings on another home run by British Columbia's Brett Lawrie.

Watch Lawrie break some hearts in Boston

He circled the bases with his tongue out, like a puppy who couldn't wait to get pet at home plate. Then he did a big Kendrys Morales jump off the top turnbuckle ? but survived the leap of faith after touching down.

Lawrie's first month in the majors was hysterical: Eight homers, 19 extra-base hits, .318/.381/.682./even five stolen bases. It's as if he's great at hitting.

2. Ankle charmer: The Red Sox have "concern" about the right ankle of pitcher Josh Beckett, which buckled in the fourth inning. There might be ligament damage. That wouldn't be something Uncle Stan's Rodeo Cream could cure. Beckett's like, meh.

"I could wake up tomorrow and feel like playing basketball," Beckett told reporters. "We'll just see."

Is that a Zack Greinke joke? Because it's pretty damn funny if it is.

3. Zach's on: Speaking of Zach pitchers, what an awesome performance by Zach Stewart of the White Sox, who missed a perfect game by precisely one Danny Valencia dinky single in the eighth inning. In all, that was the only baserunner he allowed in a 4-0 victory at Minnesota that helped the Sox sweep a doubleheader. It's true, the Twins played a lineup that might have been better suited for a game in Rochester, N.Y., where they have their Class AAA team.

Also awesome: Zach Stewart's hair. My god! It's full of curls!

4. Jesus, this guy's pretty good: Hey, everybody. The New York Yankees appear to have another great-looking young player. Isn't that neat? Rookie catcher Jesus Montero, whose stance is like Hunter Pence and whose uniform number ? 63 ? is terrible and must be all the Yankees have available, hit two home runs in an 11-10 victory against Baltimore. Two curtain calls at the Stadium, because they're so starved for something to cheer for in New York. I'm not being sarcastic in the least.

5. He can last all night: And that makes 11 complete games for James Shields, who pitched a four-hitter to help beat the Texas Rangers 5-1. Rays manager Joe Maddon actually kept� Shields out there from his previous start. Why bother taking him out? Shields is the first pitcher to have double-digit complete games and 200-plus strikeouts in the same season since Randy Johnson in 1993. Ninety-three!

6. Anaheim l'chaim! Dan Haren, Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells all made contributions to a 7-3 victory for the Angels against the Mariners. Read about them here. The Angels are 2 1/2 out in the AL West. But do they really mean it?

7. Whatcha doin' on your back? You should be dancin'!: I don't know what Ryan Howard is doing down there, but Phillies fans seem to like it. They also like Cliff Lee, who was a red panda ninja again in a 9-0 thumping of the Braves. He's got six shutouts after tossing a five-hitter on 100 pitches.

8. Brew coup: There will be no annoying sweep for the Cardinals against the Brewers this time. Milwaukee won 4-1 at St. Louis to get 10 1/2 games ahead in the NL Central. Tony La Russa emptied the tank at Miller Park this past week; Cards got nothin' left. Have you noticed how the pennant races mostly stink?

9. Speaking of races that are over: Geoff Blum came off the bench and out of nowhere to hit a home run in Arizona's 10-7 victory against Colorado. Watch out for this guy in the playoffs. He helped the White Sox win a World Series this one time.

10. Everyone's getting Fister'd: Has Doug Fister been the best midseason acquisition? He's got a 2.64 ERA with the Tigers in seven starts, and a 36-3 strikeout/walk ratio since coming over from Seattle. Detroit beat the Indians 4-2 as the AL Central gap only widens.

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Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
? Maryland's new football uniforms cause a stir
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How did Mark Richt get into this hole? It?s the defense, stupid.

How did Mark Richt get into this hole? It?s the defense, stupid.As a group, Georgia fans are veterans at this point of existential crises over Mark Richt's future as head coach, and of navigating the competing factions that come with them. On the heels of an 0-2 start, though, there's no disagreement on the basic premise: The program is spiraling in the wrong direction, and have been for a long time.

Since opening atop the preseason polls in 2008, the Bulldogs have progressively fallen out of the top 10, then out of the polls altogether, then below .500 for the first time in 15 years. They've lost nine of their last ten against ranked opponents. At this rate, they're going to be bowl-less for the holidays this winter, at which point the time for debate will be long passed.

Still, the other half of the equation is more elusive: How in the world did they get here? Richt is still the same guy who delivered two SEC championships and five top-10 finishes in six years from 2002-07. Recruiting is still good. (The latest recruiting class, arguably the most hyped of Richt's tenure, is the fifth in six years ranked among Rivals' top 10 incoming classes nationally.) The NFL remains very interested. (At least four Bulldogs have gone in the draft every single year since 2001, including six from the 2010 team earlier this year.) If it's not talent, then what?

Are we really going to be forced to start talking about things like "leadership"?

? It was the team leadership through the last few years that most concerned Kelin Johnson, the defensive captain and vocal leader of the 2007 squad.

"One of the hardest things is walking around this city and to be around these players and to see some of them taking things for granted, some of the guys who are just happy to put the 'G' on or to wear a Georgia football shirt downtown to pick up women," Johnson said. "They want to put a 'G' on so people will recognize them. So what? The 'G' doesn't make you. As soon as these players realize the 'G' doesn't make the person, the person makes the 'G,' that's how they know Georgia's so much better than everybody else."

Well, maybe. One this side of the business, though, intangibles like "leadership" fall squarely into the category of Known Unknowns: They're impossible to assess, and may not matter nearly as much as everyone says they do. Maybe, maybe not. Unfortunately, that also goes for the best guess by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chip Towers, who ties the beginning of the Bulldogs' decline to Richt's decision to give up play-calling day-to-day oversight of the offense circa 2007 ? not because of the effect it had on the offense, but because of the effect it had on Richt, whatever that is:

Think about that for a minute. For 11 years before Richt came to Georgia, he was quarterbacks coach and/or offensive coordinator at Florida State, which happened to finish in the Top 5 nationally every one of those years. For the majority of that time, he was game-planning and play-calling for the Seminoles. Then he comes to Georgia in December of 2000 and, after... calling the national championship game with FSU, he hits the recruiting trail for the Bulldogs and assumes the same offensive responsibilities at UGA in addition to being head coach.

That goes on through the 2006 season, when he finally entrusts the Xs and Os to somebody else. It was an exhausting run, I'm sure.

But again, more than not calling all the offensive shots, this represented a profound change in how Richt went about his business, both on a weekly and daily basis all the way down to game management. That must have had some sort of effect on the way things have gone.

What that effect is, Towers can't say. As he says, though, the offense itself hasn't suffered at all in Richt's absence ? in fact, scoring, total offense and pass efficiency�averages from 2008-10 were slightly better than the averages in the salad days, and are already on a similar pace through the first two games this year. Saturday's 436-yard, 42-point outburst against South Carolina was UGA's sixth 40-point effort in its last eight games.

How did Mark Richt get into this hole? It?s the defense, stupid.Which is brings us to the old standby: The defense. Back in the days when no one could imagine the words "Mark Richt" and "hot seat" appearing in the same sentence, the go-to scapegoat was defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, who was promoted in 2005 to oversee a unit that had finished in the top 15 nationally in both scoring and total defense three years in a row under predecessor Brian Van Gorder. In Martinez's first three years, the D finished in the top 20 on both counts all three years. Surprise: Those six seasons produced five outright or shared division titles, five top-10 finishes and two SEC championships.

And in the three seasons hence? With virtually identical numbers from the offense,�the Bulldogs have slid into the bottom half of the SEC statistically and have given up at least 35 points 13 times in a little over three years. That trend hasn't reversed itself under Martinez's replacement, Todd Grantham, whose second is off to an even worse start than his first. At the moment, there is no one on the defense who resembles a star or a consistent impact player.

The good news for the moment is that the Bulldogs get an easy addition to the win column this weekend ?�we'll go ahead that Coastal Carolina is no upset threat, because it's all over but the torch-and-pitchfork raid on Richt's house if it is ?�ahead of a make-or-break stretch against Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee. Those three games will decide whether Richt still has a chance to lift himself out of the fire against rivals Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech down the stretch, and after Saturday, it's a pretty strong bet the offense is up for the job.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.


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Racist segment at USC forces Fox to deep-six ?sophomoric? show

Here's "investigative reporter" Bob Oschack on Saturday, soliciting an "All-American welcome" to new Pac-12 members Colorado and Utah from an all-Asian cast on USC's campus:

Aaaaand here's Fox Sports on Wednesday, announcing the show on which the segment aired has been canceled:

BOULDER, Colo. (AP)?Fox Sports said Wednesday it canceled a show that aired a segment that mocked Asian students who were filmed on the Southern California campus.

Fox Sports Network spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said in a statement that last week's segment was "clearly offensive and inconsistent with the standards FOX Sports believes in, and we sincerely regret that it appeared." He said the show that aired the video, "The College Experiment" would be cancelled effective immediately. [?]

D'Ermilio says the video was removed as soon as the network became aware of it. He said there was a breakdown in our internal processes" and that the network is taking steps to make sure an "incident of this nature is not repeated in the future."

In fact, Mssr. Oschack is a comedian whose previous credits include writing for Dennis Miller's show on CNBC and Comedy Central Presents as well as starring in an obscure 2001 film, "Sharkman," which currently carries a rating of 2.2 stars out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database. During its brief existence, "The College Experiment" was a weekly Friday night offering on Fox's 18-to-39-year-old-male-oriented cable channel, Fuel, promising a "comedy-driven, weekly cocktail of hot co-eds, non-stop partying, sophomoric humor, and a dash of college sports." Odds are this is the first time you're hearing of it, and the last. If only it had risen to the level of sophomorism...

Now, if Fox is looking for an actually entertaining way to involve international students in a football segment without overtly mocking their unfamiliarity with the culture, maybe they should send a camera crew to Rice:

Admittedly, that's not comedy gold like "What should I say, welcome?" But then, Bob Oschack isn't exactly the "Asians in the Library" girl, either, so we all have to take what we can get.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.


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