Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Panthers update

The cats are playing the Ottawa Senators tonight. Besides the game, there is plenty of off the ice news involving Florida.

*- David Booth suffered a concussion in as a result of the hit made on in him by Michael Richards in last Saturday night’s game. Booth will be out at least a week.

*- Michael Richards was not suspended. The NHL’s disciplinary system continues to be a joke.

*- Radek Dvorak is also out with a knee injury. His return date is unknown.

*- Are the Panthers lacking in toughness? This legitimate question is being asked a lot after last Saturday’s game. No Panther put up their dukes after Booth was leveled. Should they have or would a fight or retaliatory hit been a case of two wrongs not equaling a right?

I’m more concerned by Florida’s inability to play well when faced by games on back to back nights. The Panthers have always had this problem. Hockey requires a great deal of energy but all NHL teams face back to backs. Why can’t Florida put it out for two games?

*- Bryan Allen was benched for Saturday’s game. The stated reason was that his rehabilitated knee that was severely hurt last year isn’t ready for two games in a row. This makes me question whether Allen can still play period. He hasn’t shown much to me for the first 9 games of the 2009-10 NHL season.

*- To replace Dvorak and Booth, the Panthers called up Kenndal McArdle and Michal Repik from their Rochester affiliate. Why not Shawn Matthias? McArdle, a 1st round pick in 2005 has shown nothing in either the minors or in a few short stints with the Panthers.

*- The Panthers have decided to keep Russian teenager Dmitry Kulikov on the roster. By playing 10 NHL games this year, Kulikov earns credit towards future free agency. Kulikov, a highly touted defenseman, was the Panthers 1st round draft pick this year.

If I had been the Panther management, I would have sent Kulikov to the junior leagues. I do understand why GM Randy Sexton and Peter DeBoer decided not to. Kulikov has shown he is a good NHL player already. He is too young for the AHL by their rules, what will he learn by going to a junior league in Quebec? Nothing, but the Panthers had to way the long term considerations for the team. No one wants Kulikov to be another Jay Bouwmeester. If not for a trade, Bouwmeester was going to jump Florida the moment he became a unrestricted free agent.

The play of Kulikov and Steven Reinprecht(who just scored his fifth goal of the season in tonight’s game) have been about the only Panther highlights for the 2009-10 season. At the moment the Panthers are 2-6-1 in addition to being badly banged up. The team is going to have to suck it up or this will the worst season for the team since the lockout. Can the cats get it turned around? Last year the team was struggling and banged up(Booth, Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman for sure and I believe one one more starter were all out injured) at the end of November. The team then went 6-1, including four straight road wins. I don’t think this year’s Panthers can do that type of turnaround but I’ll watch almost every game this year in hope they do.

At the end of one period tonight, Florida and Ottawa are tied 1-1.


Michael Whan named next LPGA Tour commissioner

The search for Carolyn Bivens replacement took barely three months. From AP-

The LPGA Tour has picked Michael Whan to be its new commissioner, turning to a former marketing executive in golf and hockey equipment to rebuild the tour’s relationships with sponsors.Michael Whan

Whan previously worked for TaylorMade and Wilson golf companies and most recently was president of Mission-Itech Hockey.

“I was that crazy high school kid cutting greens at 5:30 in the morning so he could play free golf in the afternoon and caddying on Sundays,” Whan said Wednesday, during an introductory news conference at Madison Square Garden.

He was selected following a three-month search to replace Carolyn Bivens, whom the players forced out in July as the LPGA Tour kept losing sponsors.

Whan will start in his new job next January. In the meantime, acting Commissioner Marta Evans will continue to run the LPGA.

Sal Johnson at Golf Observer notes how the LPGA’s PR department dropped the ball on the announcement of their new Commissioner and maybe attributing this to their recent letting go of VP Connie Wilson. Sal, whose views I have come into disagreement with in the past, may be right. Connie did a mostly thankless job at LPGA HQ for a long time. I had some interaction with her on the phone and via email, and for the most part it was good. She would always answer my inquiries promptly. If Connie was still around in Daytona, the announcement about Whan would most likely have been handled better.

That said, I’m going to cut the LPGA and its new Commissioner some slack at this time. The Bivens era was a disaster, and I was very critical almost from the beginning. Ladies professional golf right now is facing its worst ever crisis. I want the LPGA to succeed and prosper. Whan has a very difficult road ahead of him to accomplish that. At this point I don’t know if he’ll be successful, but I do wish him good luck.

Also blogging on the hiring of Michael Whan- Ryan at Waggleroom and Stephanie Wei.


Man charged with blackmail for threat to kill Breeders Cup colt

One Brit’s enthusiam for horse racing has gone slightly overboard. From AP-

A man has been charged with blackmail over a threat to kill 4-year-old colt Conduit before his Group One victory at Ascot.

Ten days before Conduit tries to win his second Breeders Cup Turf in a row at Santa Anita, Calif., Manchester police said Wednesday the man would appear in court Dec. 1.

The police didn’t identify the man but the Guardian newspaper named him as 26-year-old Andrew Rodgerson and alleged he sent texts and e-mails threatening to kill the colt unless he were withdrawn from the race.

I wouldn’t be surprised if alcohol is involved. Access to race track barn areas and paddocks is restricted. A person, at least when my father was involved with horse racing, had to show their license to gain access to these areas. I’m not saying it would be impossible for Mr. Rodgerson or whomever issued these threats to carry them out, but it isn’t an easy matter either.


Army to lift boxing ban in South Korea

A ban had been in place since a PFC died last year.

The U.S. Army in South Korea will lift its ban on boxing matches, but participants will have to follow several new safety rules, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.Army boxing

The ban was imposed last fall after Army Pfc. Jason Price collapsed during a boxing match and later died.

The new rules will apply to all “high-risk contact” sporting competitions, including wrestling, mixed martial arts and tae kwon do.

The rules govern only soldiers and civilians assigned within 8th Army in South Korea and do not apply to regular unit martial arts training, said Maj. Jerome L. Pionk, an 8th Army spokesman in Seoul.- Stars and Stripes

Physicals will be mandatory under the new rules for anyone who wants to take part in these sports. I have mixed feelings about servicemembers being allowed to take part in boxing. The sport, no matter how many precautions are taken, can cause permanent health problems that are sometimes not detected for years. My father used to own standardbred race horses and one of the driver/trainers who my father used was named Billy Pocza*. Pocza had once been a heavyweight fighter and sparring partner for Champion Jersey Joe Walcott.Charlie Zam

While still short of 50 years of age, Billy Pocza’s mental condition started to deterioate. He eventually died sometime in the mid-80’s and I know he was somewhere around 55 years of age at the time. The slow degeneration of Pocza’s mental abilities was sad for his family. His son Jay(who was the same age as I give or take a year) and I were friends back when our fathers had a business relationship and I was over to the Pocza’s Florida home a couple of times.

While I don’t advocate a ban on boxing, I rather not see an Army family have to go through what Jay Pocza did with his father. There are other sports that carry few if any risks.

*- That is a 1972 photo taken at Brandywine racetrack of a horse named Charlie Zam after he won a race. From Left to right- My grandfather, me, my father, Charlie Zam, Billy Pocza, Jay Pocza, Jody Pocza, unidentified woman.

I remember this race and time well. Charlie won by five lengths, a day or two some storm hit the mid-Atlantic seaboard causing me, Grandpa, and Dad to stay holed up in a Delaware hotel for an entire day, and the binoculars around my neck had been given to me by Grandpa just before we left on this trip.


Kansas City Chief RB Larry Johnson apologizes for gay slur

It may not be long before NFL teams have clauses in player contracts to regulate what they can and can’t tweet. From AP-

Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson issued his second apology in 12 months Tuesday and was told to stay away from the team while the NFL and the Chiefs complete their investigation into his use of a gay slur.

As Johnson was releasing his apology, a national gay rights advocacy organization called on the league and the team to take disciplinary action against the two-time Pro Bowler.

The latest chapter in Johnson’s stormy career began Sunday night when he questioned coach Todd Haley’s football credentials on his Twitter account.

He used the slur during an exchange with one of his Twitter followers. A day later, he used it again as he brushed off reporters and told them he would not comment, according to the Kansas City Star, which recorded the comment.

Haley refused to address the matter Tuesday, saying it was still being investigated.

“I’m just not going to comment any further because there is some stuff going on,” Haley said.

A player misbehaving off the field and not producing on the field can expect to be released very quickly. The only thing holding back the Chiefs is whether they would remain financially obligated for the rest of Johnson’s salary.

Last spring, an arbitrator ruled that the Chiefs could release the running back and not owe him $3.5 million in guaranteed money because he had violated contract conditions by pleading guilty to disturbing the peace in another incident.

The issue became moot when the team elected not to cut him and until he began tweeting on Sunday night, the often-volatile Johnson had been on good behavior.

So even if Johnson survives this storm, I wouldn’t expect him back in a Chief uniform for 2010.

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Colorado Avalanche Goalie Peter Budaj has the swine flu

He won’t be joining his team for a 4-game road trip that begins today. From AP-

The Colorado Avalanche confirmed that backup goalie Peter Budaj has the swine flu.

Budaj didn’t accompany the Avalanche on their four-game road trip that begins Tuesday night in Edmonton. There’s a chance Budaj could rejoin the team later in the trip if he’s cleared by team doctors.

“We’re always cautious,” coach Joe Sacco said Friday. “With Peter, once he came down with those flu-like symptoms, we did the right thing by keeping him away.”

The team said no other players have come down with the virus.

Yet. It will interesting to see what a pro sports league does if there is a significant flu outbreak on one team.

Budaj hasn’t even played a game so far this season. Ex-Florida Goalie Craig Anderson has been doing a fantastic job for the first 11 games of the year. An AHL Goalie has been brought up to fill Budaj’s spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson starts Colorado’s first 15 games of the 2009-10 NHL season.


Brad Mills is next Houston Astro Manager

His last MLB was bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. From AP-

Brad Mills is the new manager of the Houston Astros.

The 52-year-old Mills has been Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston for the past six seasons. He’ll manage in the majors for the first time, though he’s managed a total of 11 seasons in the minors, with affiliates for the Chicago Cubs (1987-92), Colorado Rockies (1993-96) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2002).

The Astros fired Cecil Cooper on Sept 21. Third-base coach Dave Clark served as interim manager for the final 13 games and Houston finished 74-88. Clark was one of 10 candidates to interview for the full-time position, and he spoke for a third time with the team on Tuesday.

The Astros made an offer to former Nationals manager Manny Acta over the weekend, but Acta accepted the Cleveland Indians’ offer instead.

Mills will have work to do. The Astros have endured two losing seasons in the four years since reaching the World Series in 2005, and Mills is the fourth manager hired since the middle of the 2004 season.

If Mills don’t get help from the Astros’ front tenure, his tenure in office won’t be much if all more successful than those of his last few predecessors. The Astros thought Mike Hampton and Russ Ortiz could help the team in 2009. Is this team’s farm system that worthless? Anyone could have told the Astros that Hampton is way past washed up.

Note- Mills was a utility infielder with the Montreal Expos in the early 1980′s.


LA Clipper Blake Griffin out with broken kneecap

Shades of Sam Bowie? From AP-

Blake Griffin’s NBA debut has been pushed back indefinitely after the Los Angeles Clippers revealed late Monday night that their No. 1 overall draft pick has a broken left kneecap.

The stress fracture could sideline the Oklahoma star for six weeks, the team announced, promising further information Tuesday.

Griffin, who averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during the preseason, won’t be in the Clippers’ lineup when they face the Lakers in their opener Tuesday night, and he could be out much longer. The Clippers play 20 games in their first six weeks of the regular season.

Griffin apparently broke his kneecap during the Clippers’ final exhibition game against New Orleans last Friday, perhaps after a dunk that left the power forward wincing in pain. The team initially said Griffin only had a sore left knee, making him questionable for the opener, before revealing the break.

Griffin was the consensus college player of the year with 22.7 points and an NCAA-best 14.4 rebounds per game last season for the Sooners.

I’ve watched the video of the dunk and Griffin came up in pain immediately after the play. With Griffin injured, the Clippers look likely to have another top pick in the 2010 NBA draft


Blown away by the Brees- New Orleans beats Miami 46-34

I have seldom watched a wilder football game in my life than the one played yesterday afternoon in South Florida. The outcome was depressing for Miami Dolphin fans. How could it be anything else? The team was up 24-3 but were outscored 44-10 over the last 30 minutes and five seconds of the game.Brees

A couple of comments on the game.

With five seconds left in the first half and the score 24-3, New Orleans was about two feet from the end zone. The Saints sent their kicking crew on the field. So what does Dolphin Coach Tony Sparano do?

He calls a time out! I always thought icing the kicking is a dumb strategy and this really backfired on Miami. Given time to re-consider what they wanted to do, New Orleans sent their offense back on the field. Drew Brees sneaked it into the end zone to make the game 24-10 instead of 24-6 at halftime.

Great move Coach Sparano. NOT! I blame Sparano for last night’s defeat. He overcoached at just the wrong moment. His excuse of “We wanted to be in the right personnel, and we called a timeout to bring in the right personnel” doesn’t work in my opinion. The referees had just taken a touchdown away from the Saints, the kicking crew was on the field. Don’t ever give a team a 2nd chance to score a touchdown should be drummed into Sparano’s head by Dolphin fans for the rest of 2009.

Another duh moment happened late in the game but this time it involved the officiating crew. Joey Porter got called for a personal foul after a short gain by New Orleans. Why the flag? He pushed off on a Saint player after the play ended. That’s a personal foul? Porter didn’t level the guy or throw a punch or anything. Besides the Saint player had first pushed off Porter. The NFL and its officiating crews seem hell bent to keep the game colorless(don’t celebrate a touchdown or turnover by spiking a football or we throw a flag! Then why didn’t the officials throw a flag on the Saints after a player heaved the ball in the stands after a touchdown? Isn’t that another form spiking?) and wuss like if players deviate in the slightest from the sanitary football you want played.

Additional bad news- Cornerback Will Allen suffered a knee injury last night and will miss the rest of 2009. The Dolphin pass defense which is poor already is about to get worse.

Last night’s game was so aggravating on many levels. Miami is 2-4 and has New England up next. This is no time to rest.


Former Texas A&M Basketball player Kevin Widemond dead at 23

He was playing basketball in Portugal when he suddenly collapsed during a game. RIP.

Kevin Widemond, a 23-year-old American guard, died of a heart attack during a Portuguese basketball tournament.

The Portuguese basketball federation said Widemond collapsed in the locker room Sunday during halftime of a game between his team Ovarense and Academica in Leiria, in northern Portugal.

Widemond, a native of Newark, N.J., had played 10 minutes in the third-place playoff game of the cup competition, which was canceled following his death.

“He was sitting on a bench, listening with the others to what the coach was saying, when he just keeled over,” Ovarense sports director Jose Eduardo said.

A doctor immediately began trying to resuscitate Widemond and those efforts continued in an ambulance and then at the hospital, Eduardo told public broadcaster RTP.

Eduardo said Widemond underwent extensive medical tests when he joined Ovarense a month ago. An autopsy would be performed, he said.


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