Sports Outside the Beltway

Strikeouts for Troops

From the Washington Times-

Generally speaking, all-star games don’t generate the same excitement as regular-season games, despite the presence of the best players in baseball, because they don’t mean anything — well, other than deciding which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.

All-Star pitcher Zito wanted to change that: “I don’t want this date to pass without recognizing our country’s brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines, who are America’s true all-stars and who represent our country with honor while fighting for our freedom,” he said before the game Tuesday night. So, Zito decided that for every strikeout thrown, he would donate $500 to assist wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Bethesda Naval Medical Center and other military hospitals in the country.

That was $300 more than Zito and dozens of other players have pledged to donate during regular season games through “Strikeout for Troops.” Since the program’s inception in April 2005, it has raised more than $190,000, much of which has come from players and fans. After Tuesday’s night game, Zito added $5,500 to that total, thanks to the whiffs and curveballs of his fellow players.

Readers can check out the good work players like Zito are doing over at their Web site,, which explains how they can get involved.

For making a strikeout not such a bad thing (for the batters), Zito and the rest of the players at “Strikeout for Troops” are the Nobles of the week.

Barry Zito and the other players involved in this fundraising are true nobles. God bless them and our troops.


Bruce Arena Out as U.S. Soccer Coach (Video)

Bruce Arena was essentially fired as coach of Team USA today.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced Friday that U.S. Men’s National Team coach Bruce Arena, the longest-tenured national team coach at the World Cup, will not return to the U.S. team after his contract expires at the end of the year. Arena met with Gulati and U.S. Soccer Secretary General Dan Flynn for five hours Thursday at LaGuardia Airport, and a decision was finalized Friday morning.


Arena out as U.S. coach

Gulati said a worldwide search to find a replacement will begin immediately. Speculation will center on Jürgen Klinsmann, who coached the German national team to a third-place finish in this month’s World Cup. Klinsmann, who lives in California with his family, stepped down from the German post earlier this week, saying he felt, “burnt out.”

“Bruce expressed a desire to continue,” Gulati said. “I’m sure he’ll have opportunities. He had a great opportunity before the World Cup, but he didn’t want to be distracted. No doubt there will be multiple opportunities in the soccer world in the U.S. and outside if he wants them.”

Arena, hired in October 1998, will leave the national team as the winningest coach in its history. He coached the 2002 U.S. men’s team to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, the Americans’ best World Cup showing more than 70 years. But Arena’s squad disappointed at this year’s World Cup, failing to advance out of group play as it lost to the Czech Republic and Ghana and tied eventual World Cup champion Italy. “It comes down primarily to eight years being a long period,” Gulati said. “I’m not going to say we felt the need to change directions. The direction Bruce has set is very, very positive. We didn’t get the results we wanted in the World Cup, but Bruce didn’t become a bad coach in three games with a few bad bounces of the ball.”

Indeed not. Still, given the vast size and resources of the United States, it’s simply inexcusable that the team is not competitive for a world title in any sport it sets its mind to winning. The team’s performance at the 2006 World Cup was nothing short of a national humiliation.

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Auburn Football Players Got Top Grades for Bogus Classes

Today’s NYT has a long feature on one particular Sociology professor who almost singlehandedly ensured Auburn’s football team had the best grades of any squad in the nation.

A graphic popped up on James Gundlach’s television during an Auburn football game in the fall of 2004, and he could not believe his eyes. One of the university’s prominent football players was being honored as a scholar athlete for his work as a sociology major. Professor Gundlach, the director of the Auburn sociology department, had never had the player in class. He asked two other full-time sociology professors about the player, and they could not recall having taught him, either. So Professor Gundlach looked at the player’s academic files, which led him to the discovery that many Auburn athletes were receiving high grades from the same professor for sociology and criminology courses that required no attendance and little work.

[Isn't that true of all sociology and criminology courses? -ed.]

Much more below the fold.


Braves Hoping for 2nd Half Comeback

While most gave the Braves up for dead after a horrible June, their recent progress is giving fans some hope.

On Sunday, the last day before the All-Star break, Jeff Francoeur wore a T-shirt that proclaimed: “I’m a country music song waiting to happen.” The young right fielder and his Braves teammates don’t want that song to be something like “Out of the Postseason Blues” for the first time in Atlanta since 1990. That’s why the 10-game trip that begins Friday night in San Diego is so important for the Braves, who want to build on momentum they established before the All-Star break.

They were 13 games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets at the break, but only 6 1/2 behind wild-card leader Los Angeles.

“I think we’ve got more of a sense of confidence now than we’ve had all year,” pitcher John Smoltz said Sunday, when Atlanta beat Cincinnati to complete a 7-3 homestand and 10-6 run before the break. “We’re literally a click away from being right in the thick of things.”

That’s pretty remarkable, considering they lost 20 of 23 from May 29 to June 22. They finished that stretch with a 10-game losing streak, three longer than the previous worst in Bobby Cox’s 25-year managerial career. “We need to get a little steadier in everything we need to do, but I think it can be done,” said Cox, who isn’t ready to concede the NL East title, and certainly not a playoff spot. “Nine or 10 games out at the All-Star break, the tendency is to give up. We’re not going to do that.”

Two weeks ago they were coming off a 6-21 record in June, the worst full month by a Braves team in 71 years. Now, Braves players are doing the math to figure out what it might take to win the wild card.

It would require a collapse by the Mets for anyone else to catch them in the NL East. But the wild card’s a different story. The Braves went to the break on a better run than any of the eight teams ahead of them. The team that wins the wild card could be the one that shores up weaknesses before the trade deadline, or gets overwhelming performances from a player or two in the second half. Or both.

The Braves are looking for bullpen help, first and foremost. The team has about $6 million available to add to payroll, some of that left over from the failed pursuit of a closer last winter. But general manager John Schuerholz never spends just because he can. He’s been on the phone for weeks but has yet to make a trade. “We were more active than people might have assumed we would have been or should have been [during the losing stretch], talking to clubs about moves,” Schuerholz said. “It’s not as if we shut it down. But the reality is, where we are in the standings. We’ll see how things go. “We feel good about the way our team played toward the end of the first half. What we’re trying to do is things we can do to win in ’06, get to the playoffs and win in the playoffs. We’re still going to try to do that.”

It’d sure be nice. I’d hate to have mirror end finishes to the Braves’ remarkable division championship streak, pairing a “Worst to First” 1991 season to a “First to Worst” 2006. That, at least, no longer looks likely.

It would be rather ironic, too, after watching the Marlins (twice) and Mets (once) go from Wild Cards in their own division to the World Series to returning that favor. It’s better to be hot late than consistent all year. I’d certainly trade a couple division titles for another World Series Championship during that run.


Woman’s 10-cent bet pays $21,584 at track

From AP-

SWARTZ CREEK, Mich. – A woman placed a 10-cent bet at a Michigan horse track and won $21,584, a track official says. The Michigan woman, whose name was not released, made the bet Friday at Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek, about 55 miles northwest of Detroit.

She placed two 10-cent Superfecta bets on a race being simulcast from the Hollywood Park track in Inglewood, Calif. The Superfecta requires gamblers to pick the four top-finishing horses in correct order.

When I was single, I used to attend the races frequently. Often with my father who owned race horses. I was a $2 a race bettor.(Being a serviceman, I was never flush with cash to bet) That way you lost little or as it goes only won a little. Having grown up following harness horse racing, I knew how to read a race program and handicap a race.

The best I ever came out ahead for one night was about $150. I hit a $2 Quinella(Pick the top two horses in one race, not necessarily in order) for approximately $115.

I’m guessing the woman in the story played a house or phone number, lucky numbers or something like that. A ten cent bet to me marks an amateur. Who knows or cares for she hit the jackpot.


The Jamie Farr Se Ri Pak Owens Corning Classic

The tournament in Toledo Ohio has been an LPGA fixture since 1984.

Back in 2003, Jamie Farr formerly of the television series MASH, congratulated the winner Se Ri Pak by saying the following.

“Se Ri the members of the club here should pay you, because you own this course!”

Few truer words have been said on the LPGA tour.

How dominating has the Korean Golf Queen been in Toledo?

In 1997 Se Ri got a sponsor’s exemption to the Farr. She wasn’t an exempt player yet, and Se Ri missed the cut.

In 1998 Se Ri shot a 2nd round 61. At the time it was the all-time lowest round in LPGA. She backed it up with a 63 to win the Farr by 9 shots.

Golf trivia time- In 2001 Annika Sorenstam shot a 59 to break Se Ri’s record. What multiple LPGA major champion and Jamie Farr Classic winner played with Se Ri and Annika on both those record breaking days?

I’ll give the answer below.

In 1999 Se Ri set another type of record. She won the Farr in a 6-way playoff over Karrie Webb, Carin Koch, Mardi Lunn, Kelli Keunhe and Sherri Steinhauer. That was and still is the biggest playoff in LPGA history.

In 2000 Se Ri finished 3rd only one shot out of a Annika Sorenstam-Rachel Teske playoff.

In 2001 Se Ri won again. This time by 2 shots

In 2002 She finished tied for 5th or 7th.

In 2003 Se Ri won by 2 shots over fellow countrywoman Hee Won Han and Marisa Baena.

In 2004 Se Ri finished 2nd losing by one lost to Meg Mallon. This was her only top 10 finish in the two year slump Se Ri suffered before winning the 2006 LPGA.

What makes Se Ri play like this in Toledo, no one knows. She is just comfortable and dominating at this yearly tour stop. Only Annika Sorenstam’s track record at the Mizuno Classic shows comprable domination in any LPGA event.

If you were betting on golf, you’d take Se Ri. If a bookmaker gave you more than a dollar for every dollar you bet, he or she would be out of their mind.

Today is the first round of the 2006 Farr, so far Se Ri is -3 for 16 holes. We’ll have to wait and see if Se Ri wins in Toledo for the fifth time.

Trivia answer- Meg Mallon, the 2004 Jamie Farr winner.


Roethlisberger told he was close to dying

From AP

BRISTOL, Conn. – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday night that he was told he was “seconds, maybe a minute away from dying” immediately after his motorcycle accident last month.

Roethlisberger, in his first interview since the June 12 accident, told ESPN’s “SportsCenter” that he doesn’t remember much about the accident when he rammed his motorcycle into a car that was making a left turn in front of him on a Pittsburgh street. He did, however, remember what he was told by people at the scene.

“They told me that I was literally seconds, maybe a minute away from dying because I slit a vein or artery in my mouth or my throat and it was draining blood right into my stomach and luckily the paramedic noticed it and stopped it or else I would have had too much blood in my stomach,” he said in Los Angeles where he was for the taping of the ESPY Awards.

“I remember very few things about the accident,” Roethlisberger said. “I remember one car turning in front of me, I don’t remember the car that hit me, but I remember that first car turning in front of me and the next thing I remember is being in the ambulance and asking, ‘Is this really happening?’

“I said, ‘Tell me this is just a bad dream,’ and he said, ‘No, everything is going to be OK,’ and he asked me, ‘Is there anyone you want me to call?’ … I just gave him two numbers and I don’t remember anything until I woke up from surgery.”

Roethlisberger underwent seven hours of surgery to repair a broken jaw and other facial bones. Tests showed no brain injuries, although he had a mild concussion. He also lost two teeth and chipped several others.

I had a close call in August 2005 after getting a pulmonary embolism. Too bad Ben or I didn’t have a near death experience. We could have answered the following question.

Is God George Burns or Lou Gehrig?


Cyril Dessel Leads Tour de France

I see via YahooNews that Cyril Dessel has taken the Tour de France lead:

Unheralded French rider Cyril Dessel took the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey Wednesday on the first high altitude stage, and American Floyd Landis fell from second to fifth overall. Juan Miguel Mercado of Spain won the stage, beating Dessel in a sprint to the line at Pau. The previous yellow jersey holder, Serhiy Honchar of Ukraine, was still riding far behind with the main pack of racers when Mercado and Dessel finished.

Honestly, I had no clue the Tour had even started. For me, this has quite literally been the “Tour de Lance” for years. Without Lance Armstrong in the competition, it might as well not exist so far as I’m concerned.


Barbaro’s condition may be serious

From AP-

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. – Barbaro’s condition was “potentially serious” Wednesday, and the Kentucky Derby winner’s veterinarian said the colt was “facing tough odds” in an effort to recover from catastrophic injuries.

Dean Richardson, the chief surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, said doctors were looking at all possible treatments to keep Barbaro comfortable several days after the 3-year-old colt had his cast changed for the fourth time in a week.

“Our entire staff is determined to do all they can for this magnificent horse,” Richardson said in a statement issued by the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals.

Barbaro, who shattered three bones in his right hind leg at the start of the Preakness Stakes on May 20, has undergone three surgical procedures in the past week. In the most recent one Saturday, Richardson replaced the titanium plate and 27 screws and also treated several infections — one in the injured leg and a small abscess on the sole of his uninjured left hind hoof.


Barbaro’s recovery had been going smoothly until this recent series of setbacks. Saturday’s surgery lasted three hours, and Richardson replaced the hardware that had been inserted into the leg May 21, the day after the Preakness.


A major concern centers on the infection in the right rear pastern joint — located above the hoof that was shattered into more than 20 pieces. While most of the fractured bones have healed, the joint that connects the long and short pastern bones remains problematic.

“There’s so much concern. It’s significant,” Richardson said in The Washington Post on Wednesday. “Two weeks ago, we were at 50-50 (for survival). With this new problem, we are less than that.”

All decisions are being made after consulting with owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson, the statement said.

That goes without saying. For if not for Barbaro’s potential as a stud, he would have been destroyed almost immediately after the Preakness.

From what I know of race horse injuries, I don’t think Barbaro will make it.

Previous posts

Bernardini Wins Preakness; Barbaro Hurt


Zidane a Son of a Terrorist Whore?

The Times of London has hired a lip reader to devine what insult was hurled at French soccer legend Zinédine Zidane that made him go postal during the World Cup final, dooming his team’s chances of winning the most prestigious trophy in all of sports.

WITH his monkish mien backed by a sense of brooding menace, Zinédine Zidane has always been something of an enigma, so it is perhaps fitting that the final act of his career should be the source of such mystery. Just why did a man blessed with complete control of a football lose his head in such a violent manner at such a crucial moment, boring it into the chest of Marco Materazzi?

As L’Equipe summed up the moment of madness with a headline of “Regrets Éternels”, a day of endless questioning began. With many conflicting versions of events circling on the internet and in the world’s media, The Times enlisted the help of an expert lip reader, Jessica Rees, to determine the precise nature of the dialogue that caused Zidane to react in such a manner.

After an exhaustive study of the match video, and with the help of an Italian translator, Rees claimed that Materazzi called Zidane “the son of a terrorist whore” before adding “so just f*** off” for good measure, supporting the natural assumption that the Frenchman must have been grievously insulted. As the son of two Algerian immigrants, the 34-year-old is proud of his North African roots, dedicating France’s 1998 World Cup win to “all Algerians who are proud of their flag and all those who have made sacrifices for their family but who have never abandoned their own culture”, so such a slur would certainly explain, if not justify, his violent response.

When asked about the allegations on his return to Rome, Materazzi issued a vehement denial, while sources close to the player emphasised that he had not been accused of racism before, pointing to his close friendship with Obafemi Martins, the Nigeria and Inter Milan striker. “It is absolutely not true,” Materazzi said. “I did not call him a terrorist. I’m ignorant. I don’t even know what the word means. The whole world saw what happened on live TV.”

As legendary former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson noted on his radio program yesterday evening, there’s simply no excuse for Zidane’s actions because no one gets to be a star athlete without his teammates making big sacrifices. Essentially, the others feed him the ball, passing up their own shots, for the good of the team trusting that the star will come through. Zidane’s selfishness would be inexcusable even if his opponent said what the lip reader claims he said.


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