Sports Outside the Beltway

Chicago Blackhawks waive goalie Nikolai Khabibulin

Did a member of management recently listen to the old speech of Ronald Reagan where he says ‘Tear down that wall.’ From AP-

CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has been put on waivers.

Khabibulin is entering the final season of a four-year, $27 million contract. He joined the Blackhawks from Tampa Bay as a free agent after leading the Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks signed free agent goalie Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5 million deal in July, giving them two top goaltenders.

Khabibulin was the Blackhawks’ highest-paid player until defenseman Brian Campbell signed an eight-year, $56.8 million free-agent contract with the team on July 1.

But Khabibulin has been inconsistent and injured over the past three seasons. In 2007-08, he appeared in 50 games, posting a 23-20-6 record with a 2.63 goals against average and .909 save percentage.

Those stats are hardly poor. I expect the player nicknamed ‘The Bulin Wall’ to find employment again quickly. Whether it will be with a NHL team for the 2008-09 season is uncertain.


St. Louis Rams fire coach Scott Linehan

Defensive Coordinator and former New Orleans Head Coach Jim Haslett takes over on a interim basis. From AP-

ST. LOUIS – After experiencing the wild highs and lows of the Mike Martz years, the winless St. Louis Rams opted for cool, calm, reserved Scott Linehan as their next coach.

On Monday, they admitted their mistake and fired Linehan after four consecutive lopsided losses to open the season. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, a fiery type and polar opposite in terms of demeanor, was given the unenviable task of trying to revive a franchise that has become an NFL doormat.

The Rams have lost 17 of their last 20 games, most of them routs. But no matter how dire the situation appears, Haslett said it’ll never be as bad as in his final season as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This is nothing,” Haslett said, “compared to that.”

Linehan, 45, was 11-25 in the third season of a four-year contract that paid him about $8 million. The Rams have been outscored 147-43 this season, and have allowed at least 30 points in seven straight games dating back to last year.

The move was made heading into the Rams’ bye week and in the early morning hours Monday, several hours after the Buffalo Bills outscored them 25-0 in the second half of a 31-14 victory.

The Rams were 3-13 in 2007 and have lost eight in a row dating to last season.

Linehan was an Asst. coach with the Miami Dolphins before getting the job in St. Louis. The Rams are pretty pathetic, no defense, no offensive line and a starting QB prone to concussions. If the Rams lose 10 games or less this year, I’d consider it a small miracle.


Jacksonville Jaguars OT Richard Collier paralyzed

He was shot 14 times earlier this month. From AP-

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier, shot while sitting in a car outside an apartment complex earlier this month, is paralyzed below the waist and his left leg was amputated, his doctor said Monday.

Collier was on a ventilator for about three weeks and has no memory of the shooting, said Dr. Andy Kerwin, a surgeon for the University of Florida at Shands Jacksonville hospital.

“His overall condition has improved greatly,” Kerwin said. “We expect him to be discharged soon.”

Kerwin said Collier suffered 14 bullet wounds to the back, left groin, left legs and right buttock. In addition, a bullet severed his spinal cord, causing the paralysis. The amputation was the result of damage to his left leg and groin, where blood clots formed. Five bullets alone were removed from his urinary bladder and the 26-year-old player also had bouts of pneumonia, infections and renal failure.

Still, his condition has been upgraded to good from critical.

Collier will undergo physical therapy to learn how to move from his bed to a wheelchair. He will never walk again, the doctor said.

It sounds like Collier is lucky to be alive, but his life won’t ever be the same. Very sad.


College Football Rankings Stink

The USA Today Top 25 College Coaches’ Poll is out.  Here are the rankings for September 28:

LSU (1)
Texas (1)
10. (tie)
10. (tie)

Explain to me how Missouri, who hasn’t played anybody of note, is ranked #3 and ahead of Alabama, Penn State, and Texas?

Missouri has beaten, in succession, Illinois, Missouri Southeastern, Nevada, and Buffalo.  Frankly, if they cancelled the football programs at those last three schools, nobody would notice.  It’s been a complete joke of a schedule thus far and Missouri’s not exactly a storied program.

Alabama, on the other hand, opened the season in a neutral site game against Clemson, then ranked in the top 10, and just went in to Athens and destroyed then-3rd ranked Georgia on their home field.  I can understand putting Oklahoma, also a storied program who plays against tough competition, ahead of Alabama, who has come off a bad season.  But Missouri?!


Alabama Whips Georgia 41-30

Alabama went into Athens a decided underdog against #3 ranked Georgia and stunned everyone with a 31-0 blowout in the first half.  The defense took the second half off, giving up 30 points — it would have been 31 had Georgia not gone for and missed a 2-point conversion.  Thankfully, the offense managed to add another 10 and hold on.

The AP’s Paul Newberry, who either didn’t watch the game or only cared about the outcome rather than the process, saw it much differently than this Alabama fan.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban gestures to the fans as he leaves the field after defeating Georgia 41-30 in an NCAA college football game in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) Forget the blackout. This was an early knockout. Backed by a dominant defense and John Parker Wilson’s accurate passing, No. 8 Alabama raced to a stunning 31-point lead by halftime against self-destructing Georgia and held on to beat the third-ranked Bulldogs 41-30 Saturday night, establishing Nick Saban’s team as a national championship contender in his second season.


Alabama (5-0, 2-0) is poised to move up at least three or four spots when the new poll comes out Sunday, and the Tide certainly looked as impressive as anyone all year in winning decisively on the road against a team that started the season at the top of the heap.

Wilson went 13-of-16 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown, while Glenn Coffee ran for two scores in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. Georgia scored two touchdowns in the waning minutes.

Not even the most optimistic Alabama fan could have expected Saban, who won a national championship at LSU, to turn the Tide so quickly. This again looks like a program more in keeping with the tradition of Bear Bryant, not Saban predecessor Mike Shula.

Looking for a motivational edge, Georgia came out wearing black jerseys, and most of its fans at 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium also took part in the “blackout.” But the biggest cheers came from the white-clad Alabamians sprinkled throughout the massive stands.

Georgia showed some disturbing tendencies even while winning its first four games, and those sure came back to bite the Bulldogs. They were flagged twice in the opening half for roughing the passer, crucial but familiar mistakes for a team that already was the most penalized in the SEC. Also, an offensive line featuring two freshman and two sophomores was no match for Alabama’s massive front led by 365-pound Terrence Cody.

Knowshon Moreno got only nine carries for 34 yards, and quarterback Matthew Stafford spent much of the game running for his life as Georgia’s 11-game winning streak ended.

The Bulldogs actually made Alabama a little nervous in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, closing to 31-17 on Prince Miller’s 92-yard punt return. But the Tide calmly wrapped it up on the next possession, driving 51 yards in eight plays for Leigh Tiffin’s second field goal.

Oddly, both Newberry and the ESPN game announcers repeatedly refer to an early pass interference call on Georgia as a critical play in the game.  In reality, that “mistake” was absolutely the right move on the part of the Georgia defender, saving a sure touchdown and forcing Alabama to drive fifteen yards to achieve a result they would otherwise have had easily.

I’m obviously thrilled by the outcome.  After the season opening win, also in Georgia, against then-highly ranked Clemson, I thought this team had a chance to knock off the Bulldogs.  I had no idea, though, that they’d dominate them so thoroughly in the first half.

My only fear is that the second half letdown bodes ill for the team’s ability to focus against some of their lesser opponents in upcoming weeks.  In college, which lacks a playoff system, you can’t have a bad week if you want a shot at a national championship.


Former Minnesota Vikings LB Wally Hilgenberg dead at 66

I still remember Hilgenberg, Alan Page, Carl Eller and other members of the Purple People Eaters. There have to be many others besides myself who got enjoyment out of watching the Vikings play. RIP Wally.


It certainly took long enough

For a golf writer to talk about a Lorena slump. From AP-

PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Lorena Ochoa takes another streak into the LPGA’s Navistar Classic. For a change, she’s trying to end this one.

Ochoa, set to begin play Thursday on Capitol Hill’s Senator Course, is making her first start since the Safeway Classic on Aug. 24 and is winless in seven events.

“It’s been challenging in the last months, that I didn’t get any wins,” Ochoa said. “So it would be nice to start that roll again.”

She spent much of the past month at home in Mexico trying to regain the form that helped her win six of her first nine starts this year, including four straight.

Lorena’s last win was Sybase in May. After her win at the Ginn Open, at least two golf writers talked of Ochoa winning all the rest of the tournaments she entered in 2008, and or completing the Grand Slam. The usual silly talk heard from lazy people covering pro golf, except this time it was Lorena Ochoa instead of Tiger Woods. Ryan made note of it at the time.

Yesterday in a comment at Hounddog’s blog, I made mention of the lack of Lorena slump talk. This article had come out the day before. Bad me for not noticing.

Then I’m not Andrea Adelson who wrote Lorena would win a Grand Slam before Tiger. Andrea, how many times has Woods completed the Grand Slam and how many times has Lorena? Time for some Final Jeopardy music…….

Tiger 3, Lorena 0. It was 2-0 before Adelson wrote her dumbass column. I wonder what she would be writing now?

By the way I’m not criticizing Lorena, just the media coverage. There are probably at least 50 LPGA golfers who would take Lorena’s results since Sybase for their own.

Talking about media coverage, is it coincidental or not that the talk about too many Asian winners died off at the same time that three blondes took LPGA events in a row. The blondes are now ruining the LPGA tour!


Rams bench QB Marc Bulger for Trent Green

Can we start the Green concussion watch already? From ESPN-

Pressured to shake up an offense that ranked 31st in the league, Rams coach Scott Linehan benched Marc Bulger on Tuesday and has given the starting job to Trent Green.

Linehan made the announcement with a one-sentence statement Tuesday. He won’t comment until his usual press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Bulger completed only 52 of 89 attempts for 519 yards in this first three games, but pass protection has been the big problem. He’s been sacked 11 times. Bulger is only 19 games into a six-year, $65.1 million contract signed in the summer of 2007.

Green, 38, is in his second tour of duty with the Rams. He was with the Rams in 1999 and 2000 before making stops in Kansas City and Miami.

The author of the article, John Clayton, makes no mention of the fact that Green’s last two seasons in the NFL were either derailed or ended by concussions. Even before his season ending concussion in 2007, Green looked scared as he quarterbacked the Miami Dolphins. If Bulger can’t be protected by the Ram offensive line, Green is going to be even more problematical.


Ryder Cup Final Day

The USA did not play as well Saturday as it did on Friday, but maintained their lead going into today’s single matches. As it stands now, the USA leads Europe by the score of 9-7. The last time the USA led going into singles play by that score was 1995. Europe rallied to win that particular Ryder Cup by the score of 14.5-13.5.

Today’s pairings-

12:03 PM: Kim (USA) vs. Garcia (EUR)
12:14 PM: Mahan (USA) vs. Casey (EUR)
12:25 PM: Leonard (USA) vs. Karlsson (EUR)
12:36 PM: Mickelson (USA) vs. Rose (EUR)
12:47 PM: Perry (USA) vs. Stenson (EUR)
12:58 PM: Weekley (USA) vs. WIlson (EUR)
1:09 PM: Holmes (USA) vs. Hansen (EUR)
1:20 PM: Furyk (USA) vs. Jimenez (EUR)
1:31 PM: Cink (USA) vs. McDowell (EUR)
1:42 PM: Stricker (USA) vs. Poulter (EUR)
1:53 PM: Curtis (USA) vs. Westwood (EUR)
2:04 PM: Campbell vs. Harrington (EUR)

Comments- I like Kim leading off, but feel Azinger has left the USA too weak from the 8-11 slots. This is almost always where the decisive point is scored. I would have put Furyk and either Holmes or Weekly 9-10 or a combo of the three of them 9 to 11.

Faldo on the other hand has arguably his two best players in matches 11 and 12. Match 12 in singles play has only once determined the winner on Sunday in the last 37 years. That was in 1991 halved his match with Bernhard Langer giving the US a 14.5-13.5 victory. Before that you have to go back to 1969 when Jack Nicklaus conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin in the final match resulting in the Ryder Cup’s first ever tie.

Who will win today? My original prediction is not going to be even close. Be wiser now, I predict one of the two teams to win a squeaker today. The winning score being no worse than 15-13.


Weekly Miami Dolphins prediction

The Fins(0-2) play at New England(2-0)this afternoon. Miami is coming off an embarrassing 31-10 loss to Arizona last week. The Dolphin defense unable to stop the Cardinal passing game, and the fin offense doing almost nothing till a late game drive for a touchdown orchestrated by rookie QB Chad Henne.

This week’s game has mismatch written all over it. If Tom Brady wasn’t out for the season, I well have predicted a five touchdown margin of victory for the Patriots. Instead I predict New England 28, Miami 7.

Note- I’ll probably tape the Dolphin game so as to watch the Ryder Cup live. I just hope NBC doesn’t give the football scores during the golf broadcast.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.