Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bush's Ball Bouncing Blunder [J. Mark English]

Unranked Tennessee Adds to Florida's Struggles [David Stefanini]

Defending National Champions, the Florida Gators, are in a world of trouble right now. A couple of weeks ago this team looked dominating and a good choice to repeat as National Champs. However they have hit a bad point at the worst possible time, losers of two straight and three out of four, Florida is probably losing any chance at a #1 seed.
Not only did Tennessee pull off an amazing upset with their 86-76 win over Florida last night they completely dominated Florida. The game was never in question past the 1st half, and the score does not give do justice for the game. Tennessee took a 19 point lead into half-time and built it to 27 in the 2nd half; they could have easily of won this game by 20 points if they continued to play hard throughout the final minutes of the game.
Tennessee is one of those bubble teams with 9 loses on the year. This is going to give them the shove they need to get into the Tourney.
Florida on the other hand is giving away a potential 1 seed in the tournament and are struggling greatly right now. They lost to LSU without Glen "Big Baby" Davis, then go out and look pathetic against an unranked Tennessee team. I still think Florida is a good choice to getting the to Final Four; however after their last two games I have taken them out of the National Title game. Florida has the experience and talent to go all the way, however they need to start playing like they know the belong there.

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Steroid Network Smashed [J. Mark English]

Could this be the beginning of something big? It may get a lot worse before it gets better...

From the Herald Sun:

A suspected steroid ring supplying the stars was broken up yesterday across the US.

It is accused of distributing anti-ageing treatments to celebrities and muscle-building drugs to professional athletes.

At least eight people were arrested in Florida, New York and Texas and up to 24 people face felony arrests after a year-long investigation.

"There are celebrities involved in the case as consumers," said District Attorney David Soares from Albany, the New York state capital.

Officials also confirmed a report that the investigation could expose steroid use by current and former Major League Baseball players, National Football League players, bodybuilders and college and high-school athletes.

Mr Soares alleges the network prescribed anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and other substances over the internet and without face-to-face examinations, supplying much of the national market for illegal online steroids.

It gets worse...the Anaheim Angel's Gary Matthews among a multitude of other athletes:

Athletes were involved as customers of an illicit steroid distribution network that led authorities to raid two pharmacies in Orlando and arrest four company officials, a New York prosecutor said.

Albany County (N.Y.) District Attorney P. David Soares refused to identify any steroid recipients, saying prosecutors were focused on producers and distributors. The Times Union of Albany, which first disclosed the investigation, cited unidentified sources who said Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and former major league pitcher Jason Grimsley were customers.

"I understand that the involvement of athletes and celebrities makes this a sexy story, but I assure you we are not, at this point, we are not concerned with the celebrity factor," Soares said. "Our focus here is to shut down distribution channels."

Buster Olney of ESPN tries to explain the magnitude of what this all means:

A longtime member of Major League Baseball's family heard the news of the Orlando drug bust Tuesday afternoon from a reporter, and from him, there was no exclamation of shock, no follow-up questions about whether there are any names mentioned beyond that of Angels center fielder Gary Matthews, Jr. or pitcher Jason Grimsley.

The talent evaluator seems resigned to a past and present and future in which performance-enhancing drugs are engrained in Major League Baseball. He doesn't know who is taking what, but what he sees, again, is that the bodies are getting bigger.

The bodies got bigger in the '90s, particularly those of many hitters. And late in the '90s and into the 21st century, the pitchers' bodies got bigger, especially those of middle relievers, he felt. In 2005 -- the first year in which players were subject to suspension for a failed first steroid test, rather than getting a couple of mulligans -- he felt the bodies got smaller, suddenly and dramatically.

Comment -

Maybe its time to accept the reality of drugs being used in professional sports. This is an extremely pessimistic view of the situation, but not matter what is done to curb drug use among professional players, there is always a new way around the system. Why not instead facilitate an environment of legal drug use with education. Maybe this is the only way to go from here. Lets face it, drugs and sports have been together now for decades. Maybe its just meant to be.

I'm not really advocating drug use here. But when you hear stories like this, its frustrating as a fan to know that the reality of what I'm seeing on a court, baseball field, or football field is probably enhanced through illegal substances. Why simply remove the cloud of deceit and bring it out into the open?

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Baseball is Back! - Sort of... [J. Mark English]

At least Spring Training baseball is back. Today the New York Mets take the field against the Detroit Tigers. Its a bitter sweet match-up since they should have played the Tigers in the World Series last year. Be that as it may, they will be on the grass, with sun out, and the hopes of spring at their back.

The New York Yankees will play their first exhibition game tomorrow at 1:15 pm against the Minnesota Twins.

Pretty soon we'll be talking about opening day, which right around the corner.

More on the Mets from Marty Noble:

The Mets wanted the World Series. Oh, how they wanted the World Series. And they weren't going to be choosey about it. Tell 'em where and when, and they'd show up. They didn't care about the "who" they said. And they knew the "why" of it.

"With the kind of season we had, the World Series was where we felt we belonged," Jose Valentin said.

Tucked away, though, the Mets did have a preference; unspoken as it was. No team ever publicly chooses a postseason opponent. It's not diplomatic, and the PC world in which the game now is played, tact ranks up there with a high OPS.

All that aside, the Mets favored playing the Tigers. Once the Yankees were eliminated and, to some degree, because it was the Tigers who ended the Yankees' season, the Mets wanted to play the American League team that captured the imagination of the country -- even if it didn't capture a division championship.

More on the Yankees from Bryan Hoch:

On a recent afternoon at Legends Field, Don Mattingly was perched behind the Yankees' batting cage as four of the team's top hitters ripped drives around the ballpark.

To the untrained eye, the swings looked crisp, tight and absolutely right. But not to Mattingly, who assembled the group behind the plate and broke down each swing with unfettered accuracy.

Lesson learned, Mattingly clapped his hands together and stretched out his arms as if to say, "See?" And as Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Doug Mientkiewicz and Alex Rodriguez nodded and scattered, another Mattingly mini-clinic was complete.

Mattingly may have been promoted to become Joe Torre's bench coach this season, ceding his duties as hitting coach to Kevin Long, but he can't resist the urge to chip in with a few pointers for his love of hitting.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Your Late Night Fix 2.27.07 [J. Mark English]

  • Judy Battista ponders whether the death of a dog is the latest stain for the NFL.
  • New York Islanders complete a trade before the deadline: The Edmonton Oilers couldn't reach a new deal with Ryan Smyth so they dealt the star forward to the New York Islanders just before Tuesday's NHL trade deadline....The Oilers received prospects Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra -- both first-round draft picks -- and a first-round selection in this year's draft for Smyth.
  • As the deadline expires, the New York Rangers actually win a home game...with a 4-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Ben Shpigel chronicles the journey of Mets pitcher Jorge Sosa who's been an infielder, then an outfielder, and now a pitcher.
  • Pitcher Kei Igawa looks impressive in first sighting for the Yankees.
  • Despite losing Crawford, the New York Knicks sizzled last night against the Heat.

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Jamal Crawford Out for the Season [J. Mark English]

The Knicks playoff dreams may have taken a serious setback last night in their thrilling victory against the Miami Heat. This is from Howard Beck of the New York Times:

The worst news of the
Knicks’ season came to Isiah Thomas in two parts. First came the alarming late-night call from the team doctor after Monday’s victory against Miami. Then, 12 hours later, came the crushing words: Jamal Crawford, the Knicks’ best clutch shooter, is out for the season.

Dr. Lisa Callahan, the team’s director of player care, delivered that news to Thomas just before noon on Tuesday. Thomas unleashed a primal scream that echoed through the hallways at the team’s suburban training center.

Yes, the news was that bad. Crawford has a stress fracture in his right ankle and will almost certainly need surgery. The length of his recovery is not yet known, but the team says it expects Crawford to miss the final 24 games of the regular season.

There is a chance that Crawford could return for the playoffs, but the Knicks have to qualify first. And that quest has been dealt a severe blow.

“Believe me, we’re not going to go in the tank,” Thomas said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s a devastating injury for him personally, but I remember there was an old sign in the Boston Garden, and I remember reading it every time I went in. It said, ‘We will not be denied.’ That’s our motto, and that’s our stance right now.”

After defeating Miami on Monday — a victory that Crawford sealed with a late 3-pointer — the Knicks improved to 26-32, two games out of the playoff field in the Eastern Conference. But it will be difficult to make that final push without Crawford, their most creative scorer.

Quentin Richardson will slide from small forward to shooting guard to replace Crawford, who was averaging 17.9 points a game. Jared Jeffries will start at small forward. Thomas said he would not sign a free agent but would instead rely more heavily on the Knicks’ two youngest guards, Nate Robinson and the rookie Mardy Collins.

The loss of Crawford can in no way compare to what the impact of losing Wade will have for the Heat. Nevertheless, the Knicks will be challenged without the consistent scoring that Crawford provides for the team. He's a streaky shooter, but when he gets into a zone he can be unstoppable. Also he has an uncanny ability to make a big shot late in the game. The Knicks have been somewhat resurgent this season. If they can overcome this injury, then they will have shown even more heart and character then most people give them credit for.

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As Stocks Go Down, Cards Go Up [J. Mark English]

The stock market had a bit of a correction today. If you took a hit in the market, but you also have money tied up in a baseball card collection then you may have something to smile about. Check out this story about the latest auction of a Honus Wagner card:

The "Holy Grail of baseball cards,'' the famous 1909 Honus Wagner tobacco card once owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky, has sold for a record-setting $2.35 million, the seller of the card said Monday.

The buyer has only been identified as a Southern California collector. SCP Auctions Inc., a company that holds sports memorabilia auctions, said it bought a small share of the card. It is scheduled to be shown at a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

There are about 60 of the tobacco cards in existence featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop, one of the first five players to be inducted in Baseball's Hall of Fame.

The seller, Brian Seigel, in 2000 paid a then-record $1,265,000 for the prize card, which is in much better shape than the others.

"This particular one was preserved in spectacular condition,'' said Joe Orlando, president of Professional Sports Authenticator of Newport Beach - the company that certified the authenticity of the card. "It's the Holy Grail of baseball cards.''

In other baseball card news, people seem to be really into the 2007 Topps Derek Jeter card. On ebay its listed for as high as $286.00! Why is it so high. Because of the odd background it contains...

This is the description for someone on eBay: You are bidding on a HOT 2007 Topps card #40 of Yankees star Derek Jeter. Card shows Jeter at bat with Former Yankees star Mickey Mantle in the dugout and current president George Bush waving from the stands. Card is in mint condition and is a red back variation card. It has a low starting bid price of $.99. Shipping on this card is $2.50.

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Ben Gordon - Starter or Bench Player? [J. Mark English]

There has been a raging debate as to whether Ben Gordon should be considered a Sixth Man of the Year Candidate for the first half of the season, or whether that idea is silly since he may be a starter.

Here is an example of the debate:

Ben Gordon is a starting SG. He will not win 6th man of the year. I guess that is not the second easiest award to pick.

Before the All-Star break Ben Gordon was coming off the bench for the Chicago Bulls. He started for a very brief time in the beginning of the season. If they put him back into the starting rotation this past week there is no telling how long he will remain there: The following was taken from ESPN's Midseason Award Handouts

Jeff Dengate:

Hard to argue with Ben Gordon here. Bulls coach Scott Skiles tried Gordon in the starting lineup earlier in the season, but wasn’t entirely pleased with the results – 16.4 ppg on 43.4 percent shooting. Back to the bench for Ben. In a reserve role, Gordon’s getting as many minutes as he did as a starter, but turning in a team-high 21.0 points per game. Only one Sixth Man in NBA history, Milwaukee’s Ricky Pierce in 1989-90, led his team in scoring.

If he is there starting guard, why would he win his sixth man of the year. The link is mids...7_sixthman.html bo...ameId=270226004

Fact. Ben Gordon started again yesterday.

"Ben Gordon is NOT a starting guard.

He WAS a starting guard for a little while to fill in for injuries but when the roster got healthy he went back to the bench, thus making him a 6th man.

Thus making that the second easiest award to pick."

This claim was just flat out wrong.

Anonymous -

No one is disagreeing with you that Ben Gordon may NOW be starting. But the FACT is that earlier in the year he was NOT STARTING. He was coming off the bench. HENCE, for the FIRST HALF of the year he would be a sixth man award candidate.

This is from the NBA's website from December 26:
"Gordon, who played only 27 minutes, came off the bench firing, hitting eight of his 16 field goal attempts, while attempting and hitting all 10 of his free-throws. Ben had a very good night, but Thabo Sefolosha played 28 minutes, definitely keeping Ben from a much bigger night. Sefolosha's minutes and how they affect Gordon bear watching, as Ben will not score at a point-per-minute clip every night."

Notice where it says


So FACT...he was not starting.

Further is another FACT:

The Bulls have played 59 games this year, and Ben Gordon has started 28 games. Would this qualify him as their starter??

Please, argue those facts.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Syracuse Makes Claim for Tourney Spot [David Stefanini]

This from

The victory snapped the Hoyas' 11-game winning streak and gave the Orange a strong claim for the postseason.

Georgetown (22-6, 12-3 Big East) had won 11 straight conference games for the first time in school history and had defeated Pittsburgh 61-53 Saturday to avenge a road loss to the Panthers in January and take sole possession of first place in the Big East.
Syracuse (21-8, 10-5 Big East) has won five straight since dropping four of five.

To me, this puts Syracuse's destiny in their own hands. They have won five straight games during the most important part of the season, and tonight's 72-58 upset over #10 ranked Georgetown has culminated their push for the postseason. If they can keep up this wave of momentum they will certainly be playing in March.

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Bobby Abreu Out for 2 Weeks [David Stefanini]

In a day which Manny Ramirez reported to training camp, the Yankees found a way to steal the headlines once again (though they didn't want to do it this way). Bobby Abreu has an injured oblique and is going to miss 2 weeks.

Abreu is going to be fine this season, and will not miss any time during the regular season due to this injury. Many would think this would have opened the door for Bernie Williams, but it did not. The injury is not severe enough for the Yanks to have to go out and give Bernie a guaranteed spot on the team.

It would be nice to see Bernie get a spot on the Yanks roster this season. When thinking of the Yankees during their 4-year title run, you think: Jeter, Rivera, Posada, and Williams. This is a team who year in and year out on paper looks like they should go 160-2. They have future Hall of Famers in their prime and the best closer the game has ever seen. They should keep the four players named previously who have won a championship and have been there before. Those are qualities A-Rod and other players on this team are missing, and maybe what the Yanks are missing to finally reclaim the title.

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And the Oscar Results? [J. Mark English]

This will not be a tradition of the sports blog to step away from sports and report on other aspects of American affairs. But tonight is an exception.

Anyway, my predictions may have saved face from my embarrasing Super Bowl predictions.
  • Best Picture - I said 'Little Miss Sunshine'. The result was 'The Departed'. Hey, it really was a great movie. No problem with this pick.
  • Best Actor - I sensed O'Toole might get it, but my heart as I had said was with Whitaker. And Forest Whitaker takes home an Oscar.
  • Best Actress - I said Helen Mirren. Guess what? She's not only the Queen but also an Oscar winner!
  • Best Supporting Actor - I blew this one. I picked Jackie Earle Haley, and instead Alan Arkin shocked everyone by winning the award.
  • Best Supporting Actress - My pick was Jennifer Hudson, and Hudson kept up her end of the bargain.
  • Best Director - My prediction held true. Martin Scorsese finally wins the big one. Congrats!
That would be four out of six that I got right. The awards show ran forty five minutes long, but felt just right. I thought Ellen was endearing, and had some great moments of interaction with the audience.

I could have gone with out Al Gore, but thats a personal opinion. If you want to get a different point of view from the former Vice President on the issue of global warming, I strongly suggest you read 'State of Fear' by Michael Crichton.

Alright, well we are done Oscar coverage. Tomorrow, back to sports. For you all you New Yorkers, enjoy the winter wonderland!

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Oscar Picks [J. Mark English]

Well who ever I pick to win an Oscar, is probably going to be disappointed. If my past predictions indicate anything, its that who ever I pick will not wind up winning. Remember the Super Bowl? I picked the Bears to beat the Colts. Eh, hem...we all know how that turned out.

Anyway, here we go with my futile predictions.
  • Best Picture - I've seen all the movies in this category with the exception of 'Babel'. I was moved by 'Letters from Iwo Jima', and if you haven't seen it, it offers a great perspective of what that Japanese went through during the war. But the growing consensus seems to be that 'Little Miss Sunshine' will win. Its a charming movie, that uses story telling to advance a plot, as opposed to computer graphics. My call for this category would have to be 'Little Miss Sunshine'.
  • Best Actor - Again I didn't see some movies in this category. I did not see either 'Venus' with Peter O'Toole, or Ryan Gosling who stars in 'Half Nelson'. The sympathy vote should go to Peter O'Toole, whom should he not win tonight, will break the record for most amount of nominations without winning the award. Of the movies I did see, Forest Whitaker was by far and away the best. My vote would go for Whitaker, but I'd like to see O'Toole come away with his first Oscar.
  • Best Actress - If Helen Mirren does not win for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in the 'Queen', then there is something seriously wrong with the Academy. Mirren wins this hands down.
  • Best Supporting Actor - How in the world does Mark Wahlberg get a nomination? I mean he was funny, but this is a weak role to get picked for. I loved 'The Departed', but not because of Wahlberg. This is a weak group of actors, but if I had to pick I'd go with Jackie Earle Haley as the winner from the picture 'Little Children'. Its a creepy movie, but also a provocative look at suburban life.
  • Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson of 'Dreamgirls' should win. Not bad for someone who didn't even make it to the final two in American Idol. She may not be an American Idol, but she very well may be an Oscar winner. And the girl can sing.
  • Best Director - Once again the sympathy vote should be a factor. How many times now has Martin Scorsese missed out on Best Director. He should have won it for 'Goodfellas'. 'The Departed' brought back the magic of 'Goodfellas' and should net him an elusive Oscar.
I'll stop here, and let y'all enjoy the show. Hopefully I'll get at least one of these predictions right! If I get them all right, maybe I'll drop this blog and start up an entertainment blog.

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Devils Lull Caps into Submission [Capital Fanatic]

This Time Bounces Go the Devils Way as Teams Split Weekend Home-and-Home Series

New Jersey Devils 3, Washington Capitals 2
(Photo Courtesy of Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

After yesterday's disappointing loss at home, the Devils made sure they established their style of play in today's game. And they accomplished that to perfection, using their neural zone trap and sound defensive positioning to lull their opponents and everyone in the Verizon Center to sleep.

The home team was able to strike first however, taking a 1-0 lead after a John Erskine shot from the point deflected off a Devils defenceman right to the front of the net, where Brooks Laich snapped it home into the wide open net. The goal by the fourth line winger was Laich's 7th of the season and 1st since his demotion from the second line center position.

The 22-year old Zach Parise was able to strike back for the Devils just 5:34 into the second period, taking a nice feed from the left corner by Travis Zajac and beating goaltender Brent Johnson five-hole along the ice from point blank range. The play followed a couple of unsuccessful attempts by the Caps to clear the defensive zone.

In the third period the Devils were the recipients of a couple bounces. They struck early again, this time just 1:37 in as a Brian Rafalski shot from the point hit traffic and front and bounced directly to Zajac for the easy goal.

At the 9:13 mark, Alex Ovechkin was able to answer and tie the game at two after he used defenseman Paul Martin as a screen and wristed a shot high off of goaltender Scott Clemmensen and in. It was Ovechkin's 1st goal in his last 6 games, giving him 35 now on the season and hopefully putting his slump behind him.

But the Capitals were not able to celebrate for long, as only 35 seconds later Brian Pothier was called for a questionable tripping penalty after a diving poke check to the right of the net dislodged the puck from the Devils forward, but also sent him to the ice. The Devils capitalized with the extra man and tallied the game winning goal on another lucky bounce, as a Jamie Langenbrunner shot deflected off of Johnson's right shoulder high into the air and somehow found the back of the net. It was Langenbrunner's 20th goal of the season as he sent the Devils back to New Jersey victorious.

After seeing the Devils in action it's not hard to see why despite their success on the ice, they fail to draw crowds at the Meadowlands. Their style of play is just so boring, and while the lack of energy from the fans may have been somewhat attributed to the bad weather on the trip in, it was more a result of the slow play because of their defensive approach.

Game Notes:

Brent Johnson had another solid game in net, keeping his team in the game with a number a quality stops on his way to 26 saves on the afternoon.... In what might have been their final game with the Caps, Danius Zubrus won 10 of 11 faceoffs and Richard Zednik notched a secondary assist on Laich's opening goal.... Scott Clemmensen gave Martin Brodeur the day off and stopped 23 shots in the Devils win.

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Matt Kenseth Wins at California Speedway [David Stefanini]

Matt Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 for the second consecutive year Sunday at California Speedway.

Pole-winner Jeff Gordon finished second and teammate Jimmie Johnson was third.

Kenseth also won the Stater Bros. 300 Busch race on Saturday.


Kenseth is obviously the dominating driver at this track. Last year he won this race, Saturday he won the Busch race, and now he completed the tri-fecta by winning on Sunday. Kenseth, who started the race 40th in the points, is going to get a huge lift in the point standings. With the new rules with the top 12 drivers going into a 10 race shoot-out, it does not matter who is leading the points now, but Kenseth is going to feel better when he looks at the standings tomorrow mourning and sees himself amoung the leaders.

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Denver Broncos' Damien Nash Dies [J. Mark English]

In two months, the Broncos have now experienced the loss of life with two players. Yesterday, running back Damien Nash was playing a charity basketball game. Shortly after the game, he collapsed and died:

Broncos running back
Damien Nash collapsed and died after a charity basketball game in suburban St. Louis on Saturday, less than two months after the slaying of teammate Darrent Williams.

"We have been informed of the passing of Damien Nash," team spokesman Jim Saccomano said Saturday night. "We are attempting to get more details. ... We do know it's true."

Officials at Christian Hospital in St. Louis said the 24-year-old Nash died early Saturday evening. The cause of death wasn't immediately determined.

Nash collapsed shortly after participating in the game benefiting a foundation named for older brother Darris Nash. The foundation raises money for heart transplant research. It was established last month, after Darris Nash received a heart transplant.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Top 20 Sport Movies of All Time [J. Mark English]

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl of the entertainment world, the Oscars. Recently, ESPN came out with a Top 20 sport movies of all time list. For the most part I'd say they are right on track. Some movies that I feel they left out are Rudy, Friday Night Lights, Any Given Sunday, Major League, Miracle, Rookie of the Year, and Cinderella Man. You may have some you want to add. Feel free to share in the comment section. Here is ESPN's list:

Rank, movie

Page 2's review
1. Bull Durham
(206 points)

The dialogue is sharp and funny, the baseball sequences are accurate and the prevailing sexual tension triumphs throughout.
2. Rocky
(204 points)

Rocky Balboa remains the lovable lughead of an underdog who will register with the everyman inside all of us.
3. Raging Bull
(172 points)

A definitive movie about any sport has yet to be made, but this one comes closest. There's nothing formulaic or feel-good.
4. Hoosiers
(167 points)

While "Rocky" shows what one individual can do in the face of overwhelming odds, "Hoosiers" is the ultimate parable for the underdog "team."
5. Slap Shot
(166 points)

Paul Newman demonstrates how goofball sports movies ought to be done (this should be required viewing for Adam Sandler).
6. The Natural
(150 points)

Authentic in the nostalgia that's in every adult heart -- the career, game, love, girl that got away; then turns up again, backlit.
7. Field of Dreams
(122 points)

Just an odd and wonderful premise with baseball acting as a metaphor for so much more about life, and love, and passions.
8. Caddyshack
(121 points)

Perhaps the funniest sports movie ever made, and 22 years later, it still ranks as definitely the most "quotable" sports film.
9. The Hustler
(113 points)

Unbelievable acting, especially by Newman. The scene at the beginning, when he plays Gleason for the first time, is one of the best.
10. The Longest Yard
(109 points)

One of the best things about sports is the sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle bird they flip at the establishment.
11. North Dallas Forty
(93 points)

From the opening scene, when Nick Nolte struggles to get out of bed, we get an up-close look at the brutal world of pro football.
12. Jerry Maguire
(88 points)

Somehow they managed to turn a movie about an agent into a statement against the greed and selfishness that has overrun professional sports.
13. Hoop Dreams
(82 points)

The viewer develops more of an emotional attachment to the lead characters than in any other movie -- because you know they're real.
14. Breaking Away
(76 points)

The scene where Dave rides to keep up with the truck is one of the two most inspiring training scenes in movie history.
15. White Men Can't Jump
(74 points)

"The sun even shines on a dog's ass some days." The constant yammering of trash talk shines throughout this playground hoops saga.
16. The Bad News Bears
(70 points)

The kids are ruthless, funny, honest and vulnerable. Which is to say, they're just like real kids.
17. Chariots of Fire
(70 points)

Behold an intelligent dissection of what makes a championship athlete tick when it really isn't about the money.
18. Brian's Song
(67 points)

A tearjerker that captures the ideal interracial relationship, even in a competitive situation, so rarely achieved.
19. Eight Men Out
(55 points)

One of the great period-piece movies ... it brought 1919 alive. Like most of John Sayles' movies, it features tremendous ensemble acting.
20. When We Were Kings
(53 points)

It has a wonderful beat and rhythm that sweeps you up into the film. And when Ali is the central figure, you can't possibly look away.
Also Receiving Votes: 21. Pride of the Yankees (51), 22. A League of Their Own (41), 23. Bang the Drum Slowly (40), 24. Tin Cup (32), 25. Hurricane (30), 26. The Color of Money (27), 27. Rounders (25), 28. Rocky III (25), 29. Rocky II (24), 30. Heaven Can Wait (20)

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Good Times, Good Times in Nassau [J. Mark English]

Usually I find it easy to neglect the hockey team that plays on Long Island. The Icelanders, as Steve Somers calls them, otherwise known at the New York Islanders, are playing like a playoff team right now. Today they won a crucial game against the Montreal Canadiens. The game was played before a sold out crowd. It was only the seventh sell out at Nassau Coliseum on the year. (Had to get that one in...) Anyway, heres a great wrap up on the game from Jason Lockhart.

Danish-native Frans Nielsen scored his first NHL goal and added an assist to help the Islanders pull even with Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings with a 3-2 win over the Canadiens in front of a sold out crowd of 16,234 at the Nassau Coliseum, Saturday afternoon. The win gives the Islanders 70 points, good for a spot in the seventh position with Montreal, which has played 64 games to the Islanders' 62.

"I was so pumped for Frans," said Islanders and Bridgeport linemate Jeff Tambellini. "He's the first kid to grow up in Denmark and do what he's been doing, so that's phenomenal. He's been a great friend of mine the whole year. Nielsen and I played every shift together down in Bridgeport. Whether it's PK, 5-on-5 or power play we're out there. Since we've been up, we've been doing everything together, so it was nice to be out there when he scored his first."

Tambellini and Jason Blake also tallied goals while Richard Park set-up two goals for the Islanders, who improved to 4-1 on their current seven-game home stand. Blake's goal was his 29th on the season a career high after totaling 28 last year in 76 games. Rick DiPietro earned his 27th win of the season, stopping 20 of 22 shots. Rookie netminder Jaroslav Halak allowed three goals on 31 shots.

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MSG Spinning Wheel [J. Mark English]

What goes up must come down, spinnin' wheel got to go 'round. Talkin' 'bout your troubles it's a cryin' sin. Ride a painted pony let the spinnin' wheel spin.

Did you find the directing sign on the, straight and narrow highway. Would you mind a reflecting sign, just let it shine within your mind, and show you the colors that are real

Someone is waiting just for you, spinnin' wheel, spinnin' true.
- Blood Sweat & Tears

Think back to October. The Mets were still in the hunt for a World Series ring, and the Giants were sitting pretty with a 6-2 record.

Back then, the Rangers had playoff aspirations, and the Knicks were preparing to wind up in the cellar again.

That was then, this is now.

Remarkably, the Rangers find themselves in a dubious position to make the playoffs. Despite a winning record, they are only two games over five hundred. Their 61 points on the season is good enough for 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings. They lost another tough game tonight at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For the Rangers to make the playoffs they must leap frog three teams. This is not an easy task. The Rangers are brutal at home this season. Their home record is 12-14-4. A record like this will not cut it in the NHL, and if you cannot win at home, your not making the playoffs.

When the Rangers are away from the Garden, the New York Knicks fill the void. Already, they have won two more games then they did all of last year. In the NBA eastern division they are only six games behind the first place Toronto Raptors, despite a record of 25-31 on the year.

At the same time, they are only two games behind the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat recently lost one of their best players in Dwyane Wade. The defending champs have had a hard time this year with having to deal without Shaq for most of the year, and now Wade. This could open the door for a surprise team in the playoffs. Why couldn't the Knicks be that surprise team?

With three weeks to go in the regular season last year the Rangers were on a high. Since then, they have come crashing downwards.

Conversely, the Knicks are spinning upwards, and may find themselves spinning their way in to the playoffs by season end.

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Your Daily Fix 2.24.07 [J. Mark English]

  • In happier news, the Buffalo Bills put Willis McGahee on the trading block, and the New York Giants show interest.
  • In a battle of Big East heavyweights, Georgetown knocks off Pittsburgh, to win eleventh straight.
  • The Miami Heat begin the difficult road without Dwyane Wade.
  • Buffalo Sabres head coach, Lindy Ruff, fined $10,000 by the NHL for role in brawl between the Sabes and the Ottawa Senators.

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Video: Tiger the Great [J. Mark English]


Tiger Woods Streak Dies at Seven [J. Mark English]

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) -- Tiger Woods' winning streak is over no matter what tour he is playing. In a shocking end to a PGA Tour streak that began in July, Woods failed to notice a ball mark in the line of his 4-foot birdie putt that would have won his third-round match against Nick O'Hern. He missed the putt, then lost in 20 holes when the Australian saved par with a 12-foot putt Friday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

That finished off Woods, and the second-longest streak in tour history.

"I was so enthralled with the line, I didn't see the ball mark," he said. "I knew if I hit it left-center, the match would be over. It's my fault for not paying attention to detail."...

...It is rare that Woods makes such a gaffe, and misses such a short putt with so much riding on the outcome. One hole earlier, he hit a sand wedge to 5 feet and made the birdie putt to extend the match, completing a rally in which he was four holes behind after seven holes, and still trailed by three with eight holes left...

....Byron Nelson's record of 11 straight tour victories in 1945 again looks as untouchable as ever.

Woods had won seven in a row -- although the purity of the streak was in question because he had failed to win four times during that streak while competing on other tours -- and he will have to start over next month in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Comment -

It may be a good thing that Tiger's streak ended because Byron Nelson would have laughed at the thought his record could be broken. Tiger's streak would not have stood up to Nelson's. Nelson never took the time to play in Dubai, or to play in non PGA tournaments between his victories. Tiger Woods no doubt may be the best golfer of all time, but his side trips in between PGA tournaments do not make his streak stand anywhere near what Nelson did during his time.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Photos: Vigor & Despair for the Rangers [J. Mark English]

Unstich the "C" from Jagr's Jersey [J. Mark English]

Captain my bleeeeeep. Jaromir Jagr disgraced himself last night. Larry Brooks of the New York Post sums up what the 'great' Czech did:

It is unfathomable. In what, by definition, was the most important game of the Rangers' season, because each succeeding match becomes the most important for the unsuccessful 11th-place Blueshirts, Jaromir Jagr did not participate in a shootout that went four rounds against Martin Brodeur.

The Rangers captain did not shoot for the sixth consecutive time after two initial misses because he previously told Tom Renney he does not feel confident enough to participate in the one-on-one showdown in which the great ones generally thrive.

It is unimaginable that Jagr, battered and bruised though both his left shoulder and psyche must be, would not demand to go. It is beyond belief that he would not demand the opportunity to have the game on his stick, if for no other reason than to prove himself unafraid of failure to his teammates.

It is inconceivable that he would not try to keep the Rangers alive when trailing 2-1 in the shootout in a game they once led 2-0 but would lose 3-2.

Hard to disagree with Larry Brooks assessment. The team is not paying you to sit out at the most crucial moment of the game. I can understand not liking a system, but its the system that is in place. The team needed your abilities last night, and you failed to even attempt. Is that attitude of a true captain?

Derek Jeter is the captain of the Yankees because he sacrifices time, body, and soul to the Yankees organization. He may not be the flashiest player, but he is always giving his all. Remember the defensive play against the Oakland A's many years ago where he came out of nowhere to flip the ball over to Posada? That was from pure adrenaline and determination.

Mark Messier wore the "C" with pride as a Ranger. There once was a time when the Rangers could beat the Devils. Down three games to two in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, he swore that the Rangers would win in New Jersey. Not only did they win, but Messier had a hat trick. He willed the team to victory.

When the game is on the line you don't see this similar fire in Jagr. And last night, during the shootout he opted to sit out. Jagr has become a stigma of one who is afraid to take charge, and lead this team. Its time to remove the "C" and give it to someone more deserving.

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Rest in Peace DJ [Bill Simmons]

From ESPN's the Sports Guy - Bill Simmons

DJ should have made Springfield while still alive

Sad and angry. That's how I feel.

First, the sad part: Dennis Johnson dropped dead Thursday at the age of 52. I never met him and only followed his career from afar, most notably when he played for my beloved Celtics, so I won't pretend to be as distraught as his family, friends and former teammates. My condolences to everyone who knew him and loved him. At the same time, I am sad, and he's a guy who meant an inordinate amount to me during a time when sports probably meant a little too much. Maybe I wasn't part of his life, but he was a huge part of mine. So it's a sad day for Celtics fans (as well as his fans from Pepperdine, Seattle and Phoenix). As one of my friends e-mailed me today, "It's really hard to dodge the feeling that someone in control has just decided to [bleep] with the Boston Celtics this year. Really hard."

Now, the angry part: DJ passed away before the Basketball Hall of Fame found a place for him. He's going to make it within the next few years -- probably in 2008, when everyone gives him the proverbial sympathy vote (this summer's finalists have already been announced and he wasn't one) -- and they'll have the ceremony without him in Springfield, Mass., and everyone will say, "It's a proud day, but it's also a bittersweet day because DJ wasn't here to see it," and then they'll put up his plaque and we'll go on with our lives.

Not acceptable. He should have made it already. I wrote about this ongoing injustice last fall, when Joe Dumars made the Hall with credentials that weren't any better or worse than DJ's resume (or Sidney Moncrief's, for that matter). It didn't make sense then and doesn't make sense now. DJ played 14 seasons, made five All-Star teams, won the 1979 Finals MVP and three rings overall, and made All-NBA first-team in '81 and All-NBA second-team in '80. Dumars played 14 seasons, made six All-Star teams (in a weaker era of players), won the 1989 Finals MVP and two rings overall, and made the second-team All-NBA in '93. But this isn't about Dumars vs. DJ -- it's about a great basketball player who never got his just due.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trade Deadline Passes With No "Big" Deal [David Stefanini]

The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and here is a wrap up of the biggest trade of the day:

Toronto Raptors send Fred Jones to Portland for Juan Dixon... wake me up when it is complete.

Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Mike Bibby, Pau Gasol, the list goes on and on with players who did NOT get traded. I was looking forward to the end of this day with Kidd on the Lakers, and numerous other deals, which were supposed to go down.

The most important thing about the non-action we saw are no teams got ready for the stretch run. This makes teams like Dallas and Detroit, who are at the top of their conferences, very happy. No team really made a jump, which would push them to compete for a title. Teams like L.A and Cleveland who desperately need a point guard to go along with their stars, did not push the button on any deal. Therefore, those 2 teams are going to stay right where they are, middle of the pack; right alongside the other teams who did not make a big trade.

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Dwyane Wade Injuried [David Stefanini]

Dwyane Wade was injured last night during the Heat's game against the Rockets. It was in the 4th quarter when Wade went for a rebound and instead of finding the ball, found Shane Battier's arm. Wade went crashing into Battier and in the process separated his shoulder. Wade was in so much pain, not only was he crying on the bench, but he had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair.
This is a horrible thing to see in the NBA. This season has been filled with top named players being injured, we did not need to see another star go down.
It is unclear right now how long Wade will be out. If the injury is as serious as it seems to be, Wade could miss the entire season. The Heat are going to be cautious with bringing back there All-Star. It is highly highly unlikely Wade will be back within this month, and is more than likely going to miss a good amount of time into next month. The Heat are hopeful he can return before the playoffs begin, but as stated earlier, if Wade is not ready they will not bring him back into the lineup.
Wade will be evaluted sometime before 3pm (the trading deadling) to make it more clear as to how much time he will miss.

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Sin City and the NBA [J. Mark English]

Jason Whitlock writes a scathing report about the NBA and its interaction with Las Vegas this past weekend. Here are some highlights:

NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas was an unmitigated failure, and any thoughts of taking the extravaganza to New Orleans in 2008 are total lunacy....

...Word of all the criminal activity that transpired during All-Star Weekend has been slowly leaking out on Las Vegas radio shows and TV newscasts and on Internet blogs the past 24 hours...

...All weekend, people, especially cab drivers, gossiped about brawls and shootings. You didn't know what to believe because the local newspaper was filled with stories about what a raging success All-Star Weekend was. The city is desperately trying to attract an NBA franchise, and, I guess, there was no reason to let a few bloody bodies get in the way of a cozy relationship with Stern...

...But there were multiple brawls, at least two shootings, more than 350 arrests and a lot of terror in Vegas over the weekend.

And the police might want to talk to NFL player Pacman Jones about a nasty shooting spree at a Vegas strip club. Jones and the rapper Nelly were allegedly at Minxx Gentlemen's Club Monday morning shortly before (or during) the shooting....

...Vegas police were simply overwhelmed along The Strip. They were there solely for decoration and to discourage major crimes. Beyond that, they minded their own business.

I was there. Walking The Strip this weekend must be what it feels like to walk the yard at a maximum security prison. You couldn't relax. You avoided eye contact. The heavy police presence only reminded you of the danger.

...David Stern seriously needs to consider moving the event out of the country for the next couple of years in hopes that young, hip-hop hoodlums would find another event to terrorize. Taking the game to Canada won't do it. The game needs to be moved overseas, someplace where the Bloods and Crips and hookers and hoes can't get to it without a passport and plane ticket...

....The NBA's image cannot survive bedlam in the French Quarter. And I'm not sure it can survive the embarrassment of a New Orleans standoff between its fans and the National Guard, either.

Comments -

My goodness. If Jason Whitlock were not an African American, you may already hear the cries of racism. But he was there, and (due to the PC world we live in) only a man like Whitlock could get away with this revelation about what really went on in Vegas.

Where is the national coverage of this fiasco? This is really a black eye on the NBA. I mean can you imagine how this would go down in the "Big Uneasy" next year? How many people have to potentially die before something is done about this?

Of course, maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. The NBA has two teams in New York, and you don't hear about stories like this. You have the NBA in numerous other cities, and you don't hear stories like this, linked to the NBA.

The NFL has more problem stories then the NBA does by far. The Bengals alone have more problem children then the NBA does.

In MLB you have half the league cheating and using steroids, including its best players.

Maybe all this mayhem happened because the game was in Sin City. After all, in Vegas prostitution is legal, gambling is legal, and anything you want to do you can get away with...with the caveat that it stays in Vegas.

Professional sports, outside of those like not mix well with Vegas. Maybe this is the conclusion we should draw.

There is no reason to believe that New Orleans could not be a good host city next year. If they can handle a Super Bowl, why not the NBA All Star game?

Maybe Mr. Whitlock is just looking to stir the pot. Generate discussion. Do anything to get readers.

Or maybe the NBA is an out of control child.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Photos: Spring Training in Full Action [J. Mark English]