Sports Outside the Beltway

Hanging up his spikes for 2006

From AP-

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Masters champion Phil Mickelson is done playing for the year, the PGA of America announced Thursday in saying that Mike Weir would replace him in the Grand Slam of Golf.

Mickelson has shut it down after the PGA Championship the last two years, wanting to spend more time with his family. He did not enter the American Express Championship outside London this week, and a year ago skipped the season-ending Tour Championship.

Although speculation has been that Mickelson would not play again until next year’s Bob Hope Classic in January, this was the first public statement that he was finished for the year. The PGA said Mickelson told them after the Ryder Cup “he would not be competing the remainder of the year.”

A spokesman for Mickelson said the PGA of America release had been approved.

The Grand Slam of Golf, to be played Nov. 21-22 at Poipu Bay in Hawaii, is for the four major champions of the year. Jim Furyk was the first alternate because Tiger Woods won two majors. Ernie Els finished second on the alternate list and declined, so the spot went to Weir, who won the Masters in 2003.

The alternate list is only for past major champions and is based on their performance in the 2006 majors.

Filling out the field is U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.

Hardly surprising news from Mickelson. I’ll just say maybe Phil should start skipping the Ryder Cup also. His play in the the 2004 and 2006 Ryder Cups has been abominable. In the days before the 04 match, Mickelson changed golf Equipment. A clear sign to me of his lack of enthusiasm. Phil is not doing the US any favors by playing in these events if he don’t care about them.


T.O. Upgraded from Suicidal to Questionable

ESPN’s Pat Forde on the possibility Cowboys wideout Terrell Owens might play Sunday against Tennessee: “That officially would make him the first player in NFL history to be upgraded from suicidal to questionable in the span of less than a day.”


Astros Win 9th Straight: Cards On Verge of Historic Collapse

Houston sweeps the Pirates to take 9th. straight game. Cardinals drop 8th out of last 9 to Brewers, allowing Houston to climb within a half game of the lead in the NL Central.

Now the Cardinals’ NL Central lead is down to a half-game.

Jason Marquis got just six outs and St. Louis fell behind by eight runs in the third inning, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers 9-4 Thursday night.

In a swoon that could become one of baseball’s historic collapses, St. Louis (81-77) has lost eight of nine and wasted nearly all of what was a seven-game lead with 13 to play.

Incredible. The 1964 Phillies are being brought up, who choked with a six game lead late in their season. No one else has collapsed in this way since. In addition, the loser of the NL Central is likely not in the wild card race, so if they lose, they go home.

The suddeness of this collapse has taken the baseball world by surprise because of how improbable it really is. The Astros had been counted out since the beginning of the month – mathmatically alive, but pretty much discounted as a force at all at the end of the season. Roger Clemens must have thought that chances weren’t good, because he asked for a special exception to pitch one last time in front of his home fans (although I suspect he’ll be back next season). Again, because no one expected the Cardinals to collapse quite like this, I can understand Clemens thoughts. Now, he may just get another chance to pitch in the post-season.

There are three games remaining in the season for both teams: the Astros play at the Braves, and the Cardinals continue their four game series at home against Milwaukee. These circumstances seem to favor St. Louis, but that’s what I would have said yesterday (both Milwaukee and Pittsburgh are fairly bad teams, and the Cardinals are playing at home). The Astros seem to be red hot, and the Cardinals ice cold. These are going to be an interesting next few days for both Houston and St. Louis fans, and if the Cardinals do finish this collapse out, it will be a blemish on their organization for years – much like the 1964 Phillies.


Cops Demand Apology from T.O.

The Dallas Police Department is demanding an apology from Terrell Owens and his publicist for making them look bad after they violated his privacy by releasing a false report.

Much of the confusion stemmed from a police report that reached media outlets Wednesday morning, before sections about a possible suicide attempt, drug overdose and depression were blacked out. None of that was visible once it was officially released, prompting Owens’ publicist — who was the person that called 911 — to lash out at authorities. “I am just upset that I just feel they take advantage of Terrell,” she said. “Had this been someone else, this may not have happened.”

Authorities did not immediately respond, citing privacy laws, but on Thursday the president of the Dallas Police Association — which represents Dallas police officers — demanded an apology from T.O. and his publicist. “The officers reacted because they were called to this location to do this job. Now they’re being put under a microscope by some fancy little football person,” Senior Cpl. Glenn White said. “Give me a break. Those officers are 10 times better than this man. … We police officers don’t go out to these calls and make stuff up.”


Etheredge, said Wednesday that entries in the police report were inaccurate. She said she did not say he was depressed and “did not take anything out of his mouth,” as the report said. “I don’t know where that came from,” she said Wednesday at a news conference called so Owens could discuss what happened. “They said I said Terrell was depressed? I did not say that. Well, you know what? I am sitting here in front of you letting you know I did not say Terrell was depressed. Terrell did not say he is depressed.” Owens said at the Wednesday news conference he could not remember what he said to officers.

“Him and his publicist need to apologize to the officers that were out there, that did their job,” said White, head of the largest police employee group.

Frankly, it’s outrageous for a serving police officer to issue statements demeaning a private citizen who is not accused of any crime. While I’m


Michigan School Cancels Football Season for Scoreless Team

A high school football team was so pitiful that its own coach called an end to the season to avoid further injury and embarrasment.

The Oscoda Area High School football team hasn’t won a game, or even scored a point, in four games this season. Because of that, the school district has decided to cancel the remaining games. Despite pleas from players and parents, the board recently upheld the school’s earlier decision to end the season, saying players risked injury in trying to take on much stronger opponents. “When you go to a game on Friday night and see a team physically dominated, those are the indisputable facts,” coach Kyle Tobin said.

“Seniors, I feel for you. There’s nothing I can say other than I’m sorry,” board member Neal Sweet said. “But you’re not quitters. You went out there and did your best.”

Tobin said the team was not physically competitive, had too few players and faced a tough schedule in the North East Michigan Conference, The Bay City Times reported.

Senior quarterback Mike Gondek pleaded with the school board to reconsider the school’s Sept. 19 decision to cancel the remaining games. “All I ever wanted to do was play football,” Gondek said. “My teammates never felt so unsafe that we didn’t want to be out there.”

Tobin, a first-year coach, defended his decision. “I have 28 years of coaching experience in high school and college, and I know the difference between a team playing bad and a team that’s unsafe,” he said.

If his players were so weak that they were getting injured, Tobin was right to cancel the season, although it brings into question exactly what they were doing during summer two-a-days.


Time for Braves to Trade Andruw Jones?

Andruw Jones has put together a Hall of Fame caliber career his first ten seasons with the Braves. Still, AJC columnist David O’Brien wonders whether this will be his last with the team.

He’s widely regarded as the top defensive center fielder in a generation and among the best of all time. He has hit more home runs before age 30 than all but seven players. And he wants to stay with the Braves.

If that were all there was to it, re-signing Andruw Jones would seem a no-brainer. But mix in other factors, like an aging body, pending free agency, agent Scott Boras and a projected $80 million team payroll, and the situation gets complicated.

That’s why Jones, who’s under contract through the 2007 season, is potentially the team’s biggest domino that could fall via trade this offseason, setting in motion other moves as the Braves attempt to regroup after a disappointing season that ended their run of 14 consecutive division titles.


They will decide in coming months — perhaps sooner — whether they can afford to re-sign Jones, whose salary could climb above $15 million annually and account for a fifth of the projected team payroll. He’s scheduled to make $13.5 million next season. “With every player who becomes a free agent or a potential free agent,” Braves general manager John Schuerholz said, “you try to make your best judgment as to how long a guy can continue to perform at his optimum level and how long you can count on that productivity. “He plays hard. He’s a sensational player. He does a great job for us.”

Would the Braves trade a potential Hall of Fame candidate before he turns 30? Or spurn possible offers from Boston and others this winter, and start next season with Jones, with or without a contract extension?

If they don’t sign him to an extension and they’re in a pennant race next summer, it would be nearly impossible to justify trading Jones before the non-waiver deadline at the end of July. Jones could end up signing with another team after next season, and the Braves would get only compensatory draft picks.

It’s an unusual situation with a unique player.

He hit his 40th home run of the season Tuesday, after leading the majors with a career-high 51 in 2005 when he was the MVP runner-up. He’s the first Braves player since Hank Aaron to have back-to-back 40-homer seasons, and the only one since the team moved to Atlanta. He has 341 homers and needs only two more before his birthday April 23 to pass Aaron and Mel Ott for the most homers before age 30. He also has 127 RBIs, after leading the National League with 128 in 2005. At the end of this season, he will have averaged more than 35 homers for a nine-year span while winning a Gold Glove every season.

“He’s in a class with some of the greatest of all time,” Braves pitcher John Smoltz said. “He shows such brilliance and does it with such ease, and when he’s no longer in center field, you’re going to see a remarkable difference. It’s not going to be easy to replace him. It’d be like replacing Mariano Rivera [as Yankees closer].”

Jones insists he would like to play 10 more seasons and remain a center fielder his entire career, like Willie Mays. “But if I have to DH or play first base someday, we’ll see,” he said.

If he plays that long, or anywhere near that long, his statistics could be mind-numbing, and the Braves would be reminded frequently of what they traded away.

Indeed they would. The Braves have traded away a lot of great players that came up through their farm system, notably David Justice and Rafael Furcal, both Rookie of the Year winners and let Tom Glavine and others get away in free agency.

It’s almost inconceivable, though, that they’d let Jones, the best of the lot, go. While he’s lost a step in the outfield, he’s just now coming into his prime as a hitter. He’s no longer a strikeout waiting to happen. He’s had his two best offensive seasons the last two years. You simply don’t let someone like that get away.


Chargers’ safety arrested on drug charges

From AP-

SAN DIEGO – Chargers strong safety Terrence Kiel admitted to shipping at least two parcels of prescription cough syrup to Texas, DEA officials said Wednesday, a day after the player was arrested at team headquarters.

While Kiel did not tell the DEA his motive, the agency in Texas has found widespread abuse of codeine-based cough syrup mixed with soft drinks or drugs and referred to as “lean,” said John S. Fernandes, the special agent in charge of the San Diego office. A pint bottle of “lean” can cost between $200 and $325 on the street, he said.

Kiel grew up in Lufkin and played at Texas A&M.

Kiel was arrested on two counts of transporting a controlled substance and three counts of possession for sale of a controlled substance. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

The DEA is investigating where Kiel got the cough syrup, who else may be involved and the intent.

Two federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said quart bottles full of what appears to be prescription cough syrup were found at Kiel’s house. Both officials said Kiel admitted to financial difficulties when interviewed by agents.

Kiel is making $500,000 this year, his fourth with the Chargers.

Kiel’s status for Sunday’s game at Baltimore was not immediately known. He was jailed Tuesday and released on bail.

I suppose Kiel can have a sick relative back in Texas. Cough…cough but wouldn’t going to the neighborhood pharmacy be cheaper and faster?


Terrell Owens Reportedly Attempts Suicide

ESPN reports:

DALLAS — Flamboyant Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens attempted suicide by overdosing on pain medication, even putting two more pills into his mouth after fire rescue personnel arrived, The Associated Press reported Wednesday citing a police report.

The friend, who is not identified in the report, “noticed that [his] prescription pain medication was empty and observed [Owens] putting two pills in his mouth,” the police report said.

The friend attempted to pry them out with her fingers, then was told by Owens that before this incident he’d taken only five of the 40 pain pills in the bottle he’d emptied. Owens was asked by rescue workers “if he was attempting to harm himself, at which time [he] stated, ‘Yes.’”

KTVT-TV in Dallas reported that a woman named “Etheridge”, likely his publicist Kim Etheridge, called police at 7:51 p.m. to report a suicide attempt. KTVT-TV reported that Owens ingested 35 pills.

The Cowboys have called a 2:30 p.m. ET news conference.

Wow. The mind boggles. I knew he was a huge egotistical player, but I never thought he would do this. I wonder if his acting out were a cover for him and for those around him to hide his depression. Thankfully, his publicist caught this before he died and got him to the hospital.

Initially, the reports were that he had an allergic reaction to his pain medications. Only this morning did the news of a suicide attempt come out. Stay tuned – the Cowboys are calling a press conference at 2:30 PM Eastern.

Let’s hope he’s OK and he gets the help he needs. The effect this will have on the Cowboys remains to be seen.

UPDATE (4:08 PM): I don’t have time to comment, but Owens is denying a suicide attempt, basically saying he was out of it, and that’s why he gave certain statements to police. Let’s hope that’s the case.


Golfing legend Byron Nelson dead at 94

From AP

IRVING, Texas – Byron Nelson, golf’s courtly “Lord Byron” whose 11 straight tournament victories in 1945 stand as one of sports’ most enduring records, died Tuesday. He was 94.


Known for his graceful swing and gentle manner, Nelson had the greatest year in the history of professional golf in 1945 when he won 18 tournaments. He captured 31 of 54 tournaments in 1944-45. Then, at age 34, he retired after the 1946 season to spend more time on his Texas ranch.

“When I was playing regularly, I had a goal,” Nelson recalled years later. “I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow. It gave me incentive.”

That incentive pushed Nelson to become one of the best players of his era. He won the Masters in 1937 and ’42, the U.S. Open in 1939 and the PGA Championship in 1940 and ’45.

He also finished second once in the U.S. Open, twice in the Masters and three times in the PGA. Nelson played in British Open only twice, finishing fifth in 1937.

Nelson’s long, fluid swing is considered the model of the modern way to strike a golf ball and his kind, caring style with fans and competitors made him one of the most well-liked people in sports. “I don’t know very much,” Nelson said in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. “I know a little bit about golf. I know how to make a stew. And I know how to be a decent man.”


Nelson’s second British Open was in 1955, when he was no longer a serious competitor, although he did win the French Open on that trip for his last professional victory. His prize money, however, was not enough to pay the hotel bill.


Nelson was born Feb. 4, 1912, on the family farm and started in golf in 1922 as a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth. One year, he won the caddies’ championship, defeating Hogan in a playoff.

It was the beginning of a rivalry that never really materialized. Though they were born six months apart, Nelson won all five of his major championships before he was 34 and Hogan won all nine of his after he was 34. Sam Snead, the all-time leader in PGA victories, also was born in 1912.

After graduating from high school, Nelson got a job as a file clerk in the accounting office of the Forth Worth and Denver Railroad and played golf in his spare time.

He lost his job during the Great Depression but found work in 1931 with a bankers’ magazine. The same year, he entered his first tournament, the National Amateur in Chicago, where he missed qualifying by one stroke. With jobs hard to find, he turned professional in 1932.

Nelson started out competing against Gene Sarazen and lived to see Tiger Woods, an era that went from hickory shafts to titanium heads.

He made an appearance each year at the Masters, joining Snead and Gene Sarazen in hitting the ceremonial first balls, and hosted the Byron Nelson Classic each May.


As a hemophiliac, Nelson was excused from military service during World War II. But despite the weak fields, his accomplishments in the war years were astounding.

In 1944, he won 13 of the 23 tournaments he played. The following year he won a record 18 times in 31 starts, including 11 in a row — also a record. Nelson finished second seven times in 1945, was never out of the top 10 and at one point played 19 consecutive rounds under 70. His stroke average of 68.33 for the season is still the record.

“Any time you make a record that stands for 55 years, you’ve done pretty good,” Nelson told the AP in 2000 when Woods was on a PGA Tour winning streak that reached six.

Asked in 1997 how the winning streak affected him financially, Nelson said: “Well, I got some Wheaties, but not until after I had won seven or eight in a row did I get them. And I got 200 bucks.”

The attention on Nelson as the streak lengthened grew quicker than the money.

“There wasn’t any pressure at first, but it pyramided as the string grew,” Nelson remembered. “It got to be like an auction. The headlines would say, `Nelson wins No. 5, can he make it 6?’ or `Who can stop Nelson?’”

He was voted AP Male Athlete of the Year in 1944 and 1945. Nelson’s 52 PGA Tour victories — a mark tied by Woods this year — was fifth on the career list behind Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Hogan and Palmer. He was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame in 1953 and to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

In the 1960s he became one of golf’s early TV announcers.

Although Nelson continued to play in an occasional tournament after 1946, he retreated to his 673-acre ranch in Roanoke, Texas, and never returned to competitive golf full time.


Nelson, who tutored eight-time major championship winner Tom Watson, had a swing players envied.

I had forgotten Nelson was a hemophiliac but did remember his friendship with Tom Watson. Byron was an amazing golfer. RIP.

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Alexander Out With Foot Injury

Remember what I was saying about the Seahawks looking great and avoiding curses? Espicially Shawn Alexander, who had appeared on the jinxed cover of Madden?

Yeah, the jinx has arrived.

The Seahawks’ insulation from the recent hex of Super Bowl runners-up has a crack. League MVP Shaun Alexander has a broken left foot and will be lost to the Seahawks for at least a couple of weeks.

This comes on the eve of their game with Chicago, one of the few NFC teams I said might challenge them. The Seahawks will be hoping for the swift recovery of their star running back, and keeping their fingers crossed. After all, if this is all the Madden curse has left to throw at them, they may just have a shot. I have a feeling that the Bears and the Seahawks are going to play each other in the playoffs in an important divisional game, or maybe even the Championship, depending on the seeding.

Of course, Seattle has been able to do fine without Alexander in the past, but he is an important part of that team, and they should be grateful that he is only going to be gone for a few weeks at the beginning of the season.


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