Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Interview with Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel

Do I have a treat for you all today, or what? Stewart Mandel is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, covering college football and college basketball. He has covered nine BCS national championship games and five Final Fours. He is also the author of my favorite sports-related book, "Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy That Reign Over College Football." Simply put, the man knows what he's talking about. He has been on sabbatical since February and returns to SI.com with a new College Football Mailbag tomorrow. He was kind enough to take the time and grant me an interview. Enjoy.

4th&Fail: You went to Northwestern's famed school of journalism. I'm currently a journalism student at the University of Florida, and in my reporting class, we heard a lot about the "Medill F." Do you have any horror stories from your days at Northwestern?

Mandel: I do, in fact. One time, I suffered the roller-coaster experience of having my newswriting teacher read one of my assignments to the class, presumably as a model of what he was looking for, only to have him notice a misspelling he'd failed to detect the first time and thus change the grade right there in front of everyone.

4th&Fail: I enjoyed your book, "Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls," and it's my favorite book on sports. Can you tell me some about the entire process you went through with the book, and what the most difficult part of writing the book was?

Mandel: It was a very long process due in large part to the fact that the football/basketball schedules meant I had to work on it almost entirely during the spring/summer downtime. So the spring/summer of 2005 was spent on the proposal that gets pitched to publishers; the spring/summer of '06 is when I wrote 8 of the 10 chapters, then finished it up after the '06 season. Writing it wasn't as difficult as I feared, probably because the subject matter was so familiar, it was just a matter of time management and staying on course to meet deadlines.

4th&Fail: You've been in the business for over a decade now. Do you ever say to yourself, "Wow, I'm actually getting paid to write about sports?"

Mandel: I wish I told myself that more often. For most of my 20s, I definitely felt like I was on a constant high, as I was getting to do exactly what I'd aspired to as a kid. I don't mean to burst your bubble, because I certainly remember what it's like to be young and starting out in the business, but as you get older it does start to feel more like an actual job. Don't get me wrong, I still love getting to go to big games, writing the Mailbag, uncovering a great story, etc., but there are hassles and pressures just like any other job.

4th&Fail: What has been your favorite moment in your 10+ years in journalism?

Mandel: It's hard to pinpoint just one. Many of my best memories are actually from college, getting to cover Big Ten football and basketball at 19 years old. I was like a kid at a candy store. At SI, I would say two: By sheer luck, I was assigned to the NCAA tournament region where George Mason upset UConn to to go the Final Four. That was a real joy to cover history in the making. And in football, standing right next to the end zone when Vince Young crossed the goal line to beat USC.

4th&Fail: In February, SI.com announced you would be going on sabbatical "to work on other projects." At least part of that is your Web site, stewartmandel.com. What made you decide to compile non-sports related essays?

Mandel: After 10-plus years in the college sports bubble, I just wanted a chance to step away for a little while and try my hand at something else. I've always enjoyed humor writing, and many of the topics I wound up writing about had been tossing around in my head for as long as two years. But the sabbatical was more for my own personal growth than the actual writing part. In the Mailbag I have coming out tomorrow, I talk about what a cathartic experience it was to watch this year's NCAA tourney purely as a fan. When your career is sports, you tend to lose touch with your inner-fan, and it was great to be able to reconnect with those feelings.

4th&Fail: Can we hope to see another book from you anytime in the future?
If so, what would you want to write about this time around?

Mandel: When I come up with one, I'll let you know.

4th&Fail: Any clues or insider information on who this season's Mailbag Crush might be?

Mandel: Ditto.

4th&Fail: As a columnist, obviously everyone isn't going to agree with your opinion on everything, but do you ever get tired of some of those Mailbag readers calling you an idiot? Or do you just get a kick out of posting their insults in the Mailbag and answering with a witty one-liner?

Mandel: I have pretty thick skin, but I'd be lying if I said it doesn't get old after a while. Most of the supposed "hate mail" is really just fans expressing their passion for their favorite team. I understand that, and I do genuinely get a kick out of the ones you see me publish sometimes where a person's zeal for their team causes them to go way over the top about something. I'm fine with that. I understand it, and it's amusing.

But the annual, December BCS angst is another story. During the whole Texas/Oklahoma controversy last year, it got to the point where I just had to stop reading my mail. I understand people are frustrated with the system. As a journalist, I do my best to provide an informed and objective explanation for why things are the way they are, but the reality is, most people don't want to hear it. They just want to complain.

4th&Fail: Do you think we'll see a playoff system implemented in college football in, let's say, the next decade or two?

Mandel: A playoff won't come about until a new generation of college presidents comes into power. Once those currently in their 60s and 70s eventually give way to people who are only now in their 30s and 40s, then you'll likely see the rigid adherence to old-school policies start to break down.

4th&Fail: Your take on Sam Keller's lawsuit against EA Sports?

Mandel: Interesting, but unlikely to get anywhere.

4th&Fail: Lastly, any advice for young journalists, or aspiring journalists out there (such as myself)?

Mandel: I should probably be asking you for advice. The media landscape is changing so quickly and so dramatically that all the traditional rules and customs I adhered to coming out of college have pretty much been obliterated. You've taken an important first step by starting a blog.

One advantage aspiring journalists have today that they didn't 10 years ago is the ability to build an audience before they ever step foot in a traditional newsroom. But I do believe the traditional standards for reporting and writing will continue to be what distinguishes those who ultimately succeed in making this their livelihood. Get as much experience as possible covering stories first-hand, be it for a college newspaper, a Rivals.com site or through internships. And keep working hard.

I want to thank Stewart again for taking time to do this interview, and remember, he returns tomorrow at SI.com with a new edition of the Mailbag. For more from Stewart, you can check out his archives at SI.com, or follow him on Twitter. Is you want to check out his essays, you can find them at stewartmandel.com and you can find his book on Amazon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Remembering The King of Pop

In honor of Michael Jackson, who passed away today at the age of 50, I've compiled a list of some of my favorite MJ songs and have matched them up with an athlete that best personifies the song. Anyways, enjoy it, folks.

5. Man in the Mirror. The fourth no. 1 single off of Jackson's Bad album lands at number five on this list. The song is about making a change in the world, and how if we want to make progress, we need to start with ourselves. For this song, I think one of the best athlete fits for this song would have to be Alonzo Mourning. Sure he was a great basketball player, but as an athlete, the man has done a lot for the city of Miami, as I detailed here. He was recently at the White House mingling with President Obama, who also happens to be known for his "Change" slogan. Mourning was there for a summit on good fathering (along with Dwyane Wade and other fathers). Side note, Zo said he doesn't see politics in his future, and that he can do more good from the position he's already in, rather than a political office.

4. Billie Jean. Another phenomenal song from Jackson. This one brought us all the renowned dance move that everyone in America tried in the mirror over and over again: the Moonwalk. For that reason, I want to nominate the king of the touchdown dance: Chad Ochocinco. However, he's not the only athlete for this song. You got it, another double whammy. Ochocinco may be a good fit for the dance craze that this song inspired, but the athlete that best personifies this song has got to be suspended NFL runningback, Travis Henry. Henry has nine children by nine different women. As we all know, the famous lines from the song: "Billie Jean is not my lover, she's just a girl, who thinks that I am the one. The kid is not my son."

3. Beat It. Another brilliant song off of Jackson's best album (and probably one of the five greatest albums of all-time), Thriller. I was looking into information about the songs meaning, and on the Wikipedia page for the song (because I can trust it since this isn't a research paper), it said this: "The lyrics of 'Beat It' are about defeat and courage, and have been described as a 'sad commentary on the human condition." (italics mine). There's one name that comes to mind when I hear the word defeat: The Detroit Lions, who went 0-16 last season. Also, for those pop culture fiends, you've got the Wizard of Oz tie-in here, with the lion who wanted heart, and courage. That makes the Detroit Lions an even more perfect fit for this song. Not to mention that the city of Detroit in this current economic state can also be described as a sad commentary on the human condition. Plus, the song has a sick guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen, which has nothing to do with the pick, but it does have something to do with why it's on this list.

2. Black or White. This isn't number two on my list of his favorite songs, but it's still a classic about racial unity, with the irony of it all being the transformation of Jackson's complexion over the years. This also happens to be the second song on the list that has one of the top guitarists of all-time lending his skills to the track, this time in the form of Guns N Roses guitarist Slash. But on to the pick of the athlete. This one is an all-time great as well: Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball's color barrier back in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. It seems fitting, as Robinson was a pioneer in baseball, being the first African-American to make it in the majors, while Jackson's popularity led him to breaking the color barrier on MTV, and being the first African-American musician to have his videos played on the networks airwaves.

1. Thriller. This is the quintessential Jackson song. It's the one video that everyone knows, and the dance is epic. The title also describes what Jackson was to the entertainment world: a thriller. He was one of the greatest artists, and performers the music industry has ever seen. For the pick here, I had to narrow it down to two athletes, and I'm not the type to throw these two names around in the same sentence lightly. If we are talking all-time thrilling athletes to watch, than this song goes to Michael Jordan, in my opinion, hands down. But if we are talking current athletes, then I have to give it to LeBron James, who's thunderous dunks and ability to take over a game make him one of, if not the most thrilling athlete today. To settle it, we'll talk all-time, since Jackson was a legend, too.

Couldn't embed this video, so here's the link of Thriller in its entirety:

Other great Jackson songs to not make the list: The Way You Make Me Feel, Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, and Wanna Be Startin' Something.

Crazy Afternoon: NBA Trades and More

Whoa, what a day, and not just for sports. Two big names passed away today in Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Now before I get down to the NBA news, let me just say that Jackson was one of the greatest performers/artists I've known of, personal issues aside. I mean c'mon, the man made Thriller.

Anyways, on to the NBA news. Obviously, late last night Shaq was traded to Cleveland for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. This is a move that probably should have been made back before the trade deadline, (and one that I opined on here) because it could've done the Cavs more good this year in the playoffs than it could do next year....

That's because today the Orlando Magic, you know, the team that ousted the Cavs from the playoffs, just got better. They traded Rafer Alston (who wasn't going to start because Jameer Nelson is healthy again) and Courtney Lee (who I think is going to develop into a very good player) to the Nets for Vince Carter, who is still good for 20 points a night and is an obviously big name that will keep fans excited.

So yeah, the two best teams in the East just got better today, and for the record, I still think that adding Shaq could do LeBron's legacy less good, however, I do think that if the Cavs can win a title next year, it would be pretty awesome that Shaq will have won titles playing with the arguably the three biggest names in the league currently, and arguably the three best players this decade.

I wonder if any other big trades will occur tonight before, during or after the draft. Stay tuned to find out, I guess.

The Marlins and Their New Found Winning Ways

The Marlins beat the Orioles in game 2 of their three-game series on Wednesday, 5-2, behind a solid 7-inning outing from Ricky Nolasco, in which he struckout seven and allowed zero earned runs.

Since being called up from assignment in the minors on June 7, Nolasco has had four starts, winning two of them, and allowing only 5 earned runs total. For the month of June, his ERA is 1.80, down considerably from his 12.23 ERA in May before he was sent down. Overall though, Nolasco has lowered his season ERA to 6.42, which is a bit more respectable.

Anyways, behind another solid outing from a rejuvenated Nolasco, the Marlins improved the team record to a game above .500 for the first time since May 12. They now sit at 37-36, and still sit in third in the NL East, just two games back of the reigning World Series champion Phillies, and a half game back of the Mets.

Tonight, Sean West takes the mound in search of a sweep of the O's before the Fish head to Tampa for a weekend Sunshine Series with the Rays.

FIU Cuts Cheerleading Squad

As if FIU football games didn't suck enough as is, the school, in an effort to cut costs just cut the cheerleading team from the university's budget.

The move followed an earlier move that eliminated the marching band as well.

Quote that best sums up the move, from the article from The Miami Herald:

''All FIU now has is a mascot and a dance team,'' [cheerleading coach Maria] George said. "They're cutting the college pageantry out of college sports.''

I wouldn't open my mouth too soon about that, because before you know it, they might nix the mascot and dance team, too.


Okay, so I've been a bit busy the past week so there has been a lack of posting. But hopefully today I'll have some time to get to the good stuff.

Here's a list of things I hope to get to today, time-permitting, because yesterday was a pretty big sports day, if you ask me:

- The Marlins are above .500 for the first time since May 12 (and still haven't traded away the roster).

- The US soccer team knocked off no. 1 ranked Spain in the Confederartion Cup semis.

- Shaq to the Cavs, something that almost happened back at the trade deadline.

- LSU winning the College World Series over Texas for their sixth title.

and of course, tonight is the NBA Draft. So I'll try to get back today for thoughts on most, if not all of these things.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

JoePa Will Strengthen His Grip On Wins Record

Remember that whole Florida State cheating scandal, you know, where some of the athletes cheated in classes such as Music Appreciation? Well a public records lawsuit by the Associated Press and other media outlets, as well as an intervention by the state's attorney general has made public a response from the NCAA about an appeal by the school.

The verdict? The NCAA will uphold the sanctions and FSU will likely be stripped of wins in 10 sports, including up to 14 wins in football.

As of right now, Bobby Bowden has 382 wins, just one behind Penn State's Joe Paterno. And for you math whizzes out there, after the sanctions are levied on FSU, that will drop Bowden to 368 wins, at the least.

That blow would likely solidify JoePa's hold on the NCAA D-1 (I refuse to call it the FBS) career wins record.

Bowden (80 this year) is three years younger than Paterno (83 this year), so maybe if Paterno retires a couple of seasons before Bowden, Bowden will have a possible chance to reclaim the wins record. But I don't see that happening now, especially seeing how Florida State would have to buyout Jimbo Fisher's $2.5 million contract if he hasn't replaced Bowden in the next couple of years. Add in that JoePa doesn't seem to be leaving Happy Valley anytime in the immediate future, especially after coming off a season in which his Nittany Lions won the Big Ten and were an upset at the hands of Iowa away from a trip to Miami (thankfully we didn't have to see the Big Ten humiliated in a title game again).

Anyways, JoePa was recently on ESPN's College Football Live, and had this to say about retiring:

"I feel great. I've had a couple tough years. I had a broken knee when the kid from Wisconsin ran into me [in 2006] and I was horsing around on the field [in August] and dislocated my hip doing some silly things too soon. But right now, I feel great. Went through spring practice with no problems, never used the [golf] cart. I'm enjoying it. I hate to get away from something I'm having a lot of fun doing."

And for the record, he doesn't think Bowden should be stripped of those wins, either:

"Bobby Bowden played with the kids he had, played against the people and they won the games. I don't think they should take those away from him. There's a lot of people involved in that situation down at Florida State. Whether Bobby was in the middle of it or not, that's got to be proved. Bobby's been a very honorable guy. He won 'em, he ought to keep 'em."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

News We Already Knew About Sammy Sosa

He reportedly tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003, when he put up 49 home runs and 108 RBI. The news of the positive drug tests comes just a couple of weeks after Sosa officially retired and said he would patiently wait for the Hall of Fame.

This revelation may come as a surprise to some people, and those same people may have been living under a rock for the last decade.

In other news: the sky is blue, the grass is green and the Sun will rise in the morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stallworth's Sentence Puts the "Laughter" in "Manslaughter"

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth agreed to a plea deal in his DUI manslaughter case, in which he hit and killed a 59-year-old pedestrian with his Bentley.

Stallworth will serve 30 days in jail, which is down considerably from the up to 15 years in prison that he faced. After jail, he will be on two years of house arrest followed by eight years of probation.

On top of that, his driver's license will be suspended for life, and he will have to commit 1,000 hours of community service.

As part of the plea deal, Stallworth also agreed to an undisclosed settlement with the family of Mario Reyes, the man he struck with his car.

The family reportedly wanted to be done with the case as quickly as possible, to prevent further pain and suffering, so a plea deal is understandable, and expected. But only 30 days behind bars for making irresponsible decisions that resulted in another human being losing his life? Is it just me, or does 30 days for killing a pedestrian, while speeding and driving well above the legal BAC limit of .08, seem rather laughable?

Sounds like Stallworth's light sentencing is putting the "laughter" in "manslaughter."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't Look Now, the Marlins are Playing Good Baseball Again

Yes, they're still a shade below .500, and still six games back in the NL East. However, they have quietly gone 9-5 so far this month! Which isn't too shabby.

The starting pitching has gotten some quality starts recently, including a 2-hitter by rookie Sean West last week, and a complete game by Josh Johnson (who is now 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA) on Sunday. Then of course, there's Cody Ross, who hit his third grand slam of the season this past week, tying the franchise record for most in a season (and it's only June). Add in that Jeremy Hermida provided the team with it's first walkoff home run last Tuesday, and the fact that many of the other players (including Chris Coghlan in the leadoff spot) are hitting well, and you've got good all-around baseball from the Marlins for the first time since the club started the season 11-1.

Of course, since I wrote this post about the Marlins playing well again, I have undoubtedly jinxed them. So if they drop the majority of the next six games, you can blame it on me... or the fact that they are playing the Red Sox (at Fenway) and the Yankees (in South Florida) in back to back series.

Interesting Stuff from Orlando Sentinel

Much has been made in recent weeks of the legal troubles of the University of Florida's football team, and the Orlando Sentinel even cataloged the 24 charges that UF's football players have faced since Urban Meyer took over as head coach.

So it was interesting to read a story from the other side of this spectrum, instead of ganging up on the players, Sentinel staff writer Jeremy Fowler did an article about Huntley Johnson, an area defense attorney who has handled 23 of the 24 cases for the football team.

From the article:

"Sentinel research shows that of the 23 cases handled by Johnson, 21 resulted in dropped charges, a plea deal or pre-trial deferment plans that help first-time offenders avoid charges after fulfilling court-ordered stipulations.
The remaining two cases are unresolved, including sophomore cornerback Janoris Jenkins' arrest two weeks ago on charges of affray and resisting an officer. Eight felony cases have been reduced to misdemeanors or thrown out of court."

According to the article, Johnson said he complies with NCAA rules when it comes to providing legal services to the athletes, including NCAA bylaw 16.3.2 which states that, "universities can provide legal expenses on a student's behalf only regarding eligibility matters. For personal cases, athletes must pay the same amount as a firm's average customer."

Also of note, one of Johnson's quotes from the article: "I don't represent the University of Florida. I don't represent football coaches. I represent the kids."
All in all, it's an interesting profile on the man who deals with (almost) all of the football team's recently well-documented legal troubles.

Lakers Win 15th, Zen Master Wins 10th, Kobe Wins Fourth

... and with that, we end the 2008-09 NBA season. The Lakers wrapped up the series in Orlando, and Kobe took home the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy for the first time in his career.

So where do we go from here? All the talk postgame was where does Kobe rank in NBA history now that he has a fourth title (and first without Shaq), and where does Phil Jackson rank among best coaches of all-time.

The answer to both of those debates is very subjective, and I will offer my two cents on these questions.

1. I do not think Kobe is a Top 10 player of all-time... yet. He does have impressive career stats, and ofcourse, is one of the most feared players in the league. He just won his fourth title, though many think he got the first three because of Shaq. Regardless, there are still quite a few names that go ahead of Kobe when we're talking all-time greatness.
-Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Shaq, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Oscar Robertson, and I'm going to go with Jerry West to round out the top 10.

Right now, I would put Kobe in the top 20 of all-time. However, keep in mind that he still has a few great years left in him, which could very well vault him into the upper-echelon of greatness. Jordan didn't win his first ring until his late-20's. Kobe is 30 and has four. When all is said and done, Kobe could very possibly be one of the 10 greatest ever.

2. Phil Jackson has to be seriously considered as one of, if not the greatest coaches in NBA history. He set a new precedent by winning his 10th ring as a head coach this season, surpassing Red Auerbach's nine. Of course, people point out that Jackson had either Jordan or Kobe for all 10 of those rings... but Auerbach had Russell and others, and Pat Riley had Dwyane Wade, Kareem, Magic and James Worthy.

The argument here for a coach has to be viewed differently than that for a player. With a player, you have to account for their winning, as well as their career stats on the court. With coaches, the main basis for debate is how much they have won, and when it comes to titles, Jackson has done that more than any other coach. Not to mention he's won roughly 70 percent of the games he has coached. To me, this puts him at numero uno on the list, followed closely by both Auerbach and then Riley, with the likes of Greg Popovich and Lenny Wilkins to round out the top five.

Those are my two cents on the debate, but like I said, debating the greatness of players and coaches over different eras of basketball and state of the game is very subjective.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Where Does Derek Fisher Rank Among Most Clutch Playoff Shooters in NBA History?

The Orlando Magic was on its way to a 2-2 series tie in the NBA Finals. Then Derek Fisher happened. Down three with seconds to play, Fisher hit a three-pointer over Jameer Nelson to tie the game and ultimately force overtime. Then in OT he hit another huge three to give the Lakers a lead they wouldn't relinquish on their way to a 3-1 series advantage.

Fisher is no stranger to big shots in the playoffs, as he's done it throughout his career. But the question comes to mind: where does he rank among the most clutch playoff shooters in NBA history?

Obviously, the first name that comes to mind is Robert Horry, who had seven NBA title rings because of his clutchness. Horry, throughout his career has hit at least seven clutch playoff shots that led to his team's big wins.

Other names to consider from the last 20 years have to include His Airness, Michael Jordan, who came up huge en route to six NBA titles, and his shot against Utah in 1998 is one of the more iconic images in league history. Not to mention "The Shot" against the Cavaliers.

Of course Reggie Miller hit big shots through his career, but has zero rings to show for it, so that can only take him so far when it comes to consideration for the most clutch shooter in playoff history.

There are plenty of other guys out there who have hit huge shots in the playoffs, and more importantly, the Finals, including John Paxson, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and dare I say, James Posey.

Then there are those two other guys with nicknames synonymous with clutch: "Mr. Clutch," Jerry West, and "Mr. Big Shot," Chauncey Billups.

Also, as a Miami homer, part of me wants to include Dwyane Wade in the discussion, because his 2006 Finals performance was one for the ages. Plus there was his shot against the Hornets in 2004. But I know better than to include him in the conversation for all-time great clutch playoff shooters... yet.

Don't get me wrong now, I wouldn't want to be the team facing Kobe Bryant with the ball in his hands in the last seconds either, but when it comes to playoff (and Finals) clutchness, he hasn't done it for me, either.

So the list of players who have come up big late in playoff games is endless, but in my opinion, none have come up big as often as Horry, Jordan and Fisher, possibly in that order.

So back to the initial question of where Fisher ranks among the most clutch playoff shooters in the NBA: I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'd have to say that he's, at the very least, top five.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Awful Athlete Tattoos

Chad Johnson Ochocinco recently played a prank on anyone who cares through Twitter by posting pictures of face tattoos he got, including one of the state of Florida (his home state) on his cheek. Then he admitted to them being fake, and just temporary ink.

So in honor of Ochocinco's terrible face ink, and because everyone loves lists (with pictures!), I'm going to take a look at 10 of the most awesomely bad tattoos that athletes sport (see what I did there with the pun? ha!) Anyways, enjoy the list. As usual, if there are any blaring (or not so blaring) omissions, feel free to drop a comment.

10. Let's kick it off with a former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick: Kenyon Martin. K-Mart, behind his right ear, has a tattoo of a pair of lips. He gave the reason behind the tattoo: it's supposed to be the lips of his girlfriend, and hip hop "star," Trina. This tattoo makes the list because it (kinda) breaks the cardinal rule of tattoos: don't get a woman's name tattooed on you (unless it's family). I'd like to see how Martin explains that tattoo to his grandchildren when he and Trina are no longer together.

9. Oh boy, another Denver Nugget makes the list! This time, I'm going to have to go with Chris Andersen. We all know the story of the "Birdman," but man, does he have some unsightly tats. I could go with that ridiculous chain he has inked around his neck. Or that tacky, psychadelic, crowned skull. Instead I'll go with the wings he has tatted on the inside of his biceps. We get it, you're the Birdman, you don't need to actually have feathers inked on your arms when you flap your 'wings' after a big play.

8. Surprise, surprise. Another NBA baller on the list. These guys always seem to have the most tattoos, or at least they are the most visible because of their league's uniforms. Here we have Stephen Jackson, he of "Malice in the Palace" infamy. Luckily, this tattoo isn't visible when Jackson is on the court, as it's tatter across his upper-abdomen. Anyways, Jackson has got a tattoo of a pair of hands praying. Not so bad, until you mention the glock they are holding.

7. Switching up sports here, I'd like to nominate an NFL player for the seven spot. Vince Young, who is the owner of possibly the greatest single-game performance in NCAA football history, also is the owner of one of the dumbest tattoos in sports. On his back, Young has "V. Young" tattooed. You know, in case his jersey ever gets ripped off during a game, the referees will still know who he is. Maybe it's so reporters recognize him in the locker room when he's not in uniform. Who knows? All I know is that it is a pretty ridiculous tattoo.
6. I just can't stay away from the NBA in this list, so here goes another, ahem, "baller." Marcin Gortat, of the Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic, has the Jordan logo inked on his calf. Aside from the fact that he got a brand tatted to his leg, this tattoo is made all the more hilariously awful by the shoe contract he has in place.... with Reebok. The best part has to be that Reebok didn't say anything about it when the conract was initially signed, yet now they want him to cover it up for the NBA Finals.
5. Speaking of get a tattoo of a logo, here is Stephon Marbury sporting his Starbury logo... on his temple. At least this logo is his own, and not someone else's, like Gortat's. Regardless, tattoos like this on your head aren't that cool, even if your brand is more affordable than Jordan brand shoes. Does that mean someone could get this same tattoo for one-tenth the price of Gortat's Jordan logo tattoo?

4. Damn you, David Stern, and all of your tattooed employees (roughly 30 percent!). Oh wait, you mean to tell me this tattoo isn't real? Oh okay, well it's still going to make the list. The 'tattoo' in question is this dandy seen on the back of Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao. It says, "Chosen 2," in reference to LeBron James' "Chosen 1" tatted across his back. Yeah, I know it's not real, but it deserves to be here anyway because the mere idea of Varejao being anything close to "chosen 2" (if that even makes sense) is laughable, since he's a worse sidekick than his cartoon clone, Sideshow Bob.

3. Here is a classic example of a bad tattoo that involves the sport you play. Mike Bibby, has this basketball, hoop and 'net,' if you can call that a basketball net, tatted on his calf. That is just terrible.

2. I really wanted to make this tattoo the king of the awful, but then I came across a different one, and Mike Tyson's face tattoo was bumped to second on this list. Like I said before, face tattoos don't get style points in my book, and Tyson's tribal design is scary. To his credit though, he was pretty funny in his cameo in "The Hangover."

1. It had to take something epically awful to dethrone Tyson on this list, so I give you MMA fighter, and neo-nazi, Melvin Costa. Costa has a swastika on his chest, which is disgusting. But he also has something inked around his belly button. Yeah.

Honorable Mention: DeShawn Stevenson's is slightly better than Vince Young's. Jason Williams has a constant reminder of his skin color. Reggie Miller's stomach should revoke Miller's right to make fun of Charles Barkley on air. Allen Iverson's "Money Bagz." Jeremy Shockey wants to make you aware of his patriotism.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Faber/Brown II

Don't usually do MMA posts on here, so this oughta be a treat.

Tonight was the WEC featherweight championship rematch between Urijah Faber and Mike Brown. Brown beat the "California Kid" with a first round knockout back in November to win the featherweight belt.

This time around, viewers were treated to a great five round fight, with Brown winning a unanimous decision. Faber though, did injure his right hand at the end of the first round, and apparently his left hand later on, relegating him to use elbows instead of punches. However, he did put up a great fight, and I'm sure down the road we'll see a third matchup between the two. That is, of course, unless Jose Aldo dethrones Brown.

Aldo, who was 15-1 headed into the night, didn't do much tonight, but he certainly was efficient. He matched up against Cub Swanson (13-3 headed into the match), however, Swanson didn't seem to matchup with him, because Aldo ended the fight in eight seconds.

No, that is not a misprint. Aldo knocked out Swanson in eight seconds. The two tapped gloves, Aldo jumped and kneed Swanson in the face. Swanson hit the mat, then Aldo gave a couple punches to the head before the official called the match.

As a matter or fact, it probably took you longer to read the summary of Aldo's fight than the actual fight took.

In case you were wondering, here's a list of things that take longer to do than Aldo's beatdown of Swanson.

- Start up your car.
- Change the channel from Versus to ABC to check the score of the Lakers-Magic Game 2 (post on that coming later).
- Pour yourself a beverage.
- Find Versus on your cable or satellite listings.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gainesville Super Regionals

The eighth overall seed in the College World Series, the Florida Gators, managed to lose their best-of-three series to Southern Mississippi after blowing a 6-1 lead, ending their season without a trip to Omaha.

I don't have much to say, but I do want to tip my hat to UF freshman Preston Tucker, who set a school record for RBIs in a season with 86. Tucker was also named to the Freshman All-America team and earned All-SEC honors.

Favorite Tucker moment this season? Hands down, this one.

Until next season, Gator baseball fans. One last note, I do like what Kevin O'Sullivan is doing with the program, especially in building up a deep pitching staff, which only figures to get better with the addition of Patrick Schuster, who memorably threw four consecutive no-hitters earlier this year.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Horse With "Bird" In Name Wins Belmont

Summer Bird that is. The half-brother of Mine That Bird (the two share the same father), denied Calvin Borel of a chance at history by becoming the first jockey to win the Triple Crown on two different horses.

What was a chance at history for Borel, became a chance at redemption for Kent Desormeaux, the jockey for Summer Bird. As some of you, those who actually care about horse racing, may remember, Desormeaux was the jockey for Big Brown last year when he finished last at the Belmont with a shot at the Triple Crown on the line.

And with that, horse racing fades into obscurity for the majority of America for the next 329 days.

Marlins Trade Pool Update

It's a lazy, very rainy Saturday, so I thought I'd give a little update on the Marlins Trade Pool.

Nothing has happened - yet. However, the Marlins have reportedly made four players available for trades: Dan Uggla, Cody Ross, Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu.

Three of those players (Uggla, Ross and Hermida) are my top three picks in the pool, so if you're scoring at home, it's potential for 12 points. I won't get ahead of myself, but it seems the Marlins will be sellers at the deadline this year. They're currently 7.5 games back in the division, which isn't insurmountable, but with the Mets and the defending World Series champs in the same division, it would be tough for the Fish to win that third World Series they're scheduled to win this year.

Anyways, as usual, I'll keep you updated on the pool, and any trades in general.

I'll probably be back later on with with some other posts, including a horseracing post, seeing as how jockey Calvin Borel is vying to win the Triple Crown (on two different horses), today in the Belmont Stakes.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Richard von Houtman Isn't In D-Wade's Fave 5

Charles Barkley is in Dwyane Wade's Fave 5, which is awesome. Richard von Houtman likely won't be on that list next to Barkley, seeing as how Wade is suing him for $100 million.

Wade is suing von Houtman, who was Wade's business partner on his failed D-Wade's Sports Grill endeavor, over claims of libel.

According to the lawsuit, von Houtman alleged in e-mails to Pat Riley that Wade and other Heat players, who remained nameless, smoked marijuana, and used cocaine and steroids. Von Houtman is trying to claim that Wade isn't as clean cut as his public image would show him to be.

Seems to me that von Houtman has a personal vendetta (!) against Wade, seeing as how it's not the first time he has made claims about Wade's off-the-court lifestyle. Back in February, von Houtman said he saw "remnants of sex parties" at a condo he rented to Wade in 2007 and 2008. He also said he saw Wade smoke weed on multiple occasions.

So does anyone out there believe von Houtman's claims that Wade is a coke-sniffin 'roider? Or is Wade more of the stand-up guy we're led to believe he is both on and off the court?

Big Moments In The Big Unit's Career

As promised earlier, I've compiled a list(!) of the most memorable moments of Randy Johnson's career. It's because the internet loves lists! Plus the guy just won his 300th game, something we probably won't see again for quite a long time.

Anyways, in honor of Johnson's 300th win, I've made a list of the top 300(!) most memorable moments in his career. Not really, I don't have the time, nor the will power to compile a 300-item list. So instead, I'll leave you with a list of his top 10 moments of his Hall of Fame career, to date.

10. Bird-splosion! This would be ranked higher on this list if it was an actual accomplishment, or if it happened during the regular season. Instead, it's here for the mere shock value of, "wow, he actually hit a bird -midflight - with a pitch." On March 24, 2001 against his current team (the Giants), Johnson struck a dove with a fastball, killing it. The umpire called it a "no pitch." I call it jaw-dropping.

9. Triple Crown. No, not the Derby, Belmont and Preakness, baseball's pitching Triple Crown. In 2002, Johnson led the National League in wins (24), ERA (2.32) and strikeouts (334), becoming, at the time, the 23rd pitcher to lead his league in those three categories. Since then, only Johan Santana (2006) and Jake Peavy (2007) have taken home that honor.

8. Career Home Run No. 1. September 19, 2003 against the Milwaukee Brewers Johnson hit his first, and only, career home run.

7. League Domination. Johnson is the only member of the 300-win club to have defeated every single MLB team.

6. No-No. Johnson pitched his first no-hitter on June 2, 1990 against the Detroit Tigers.

5. 20 K's. May 8, 2001. Johnson struck out 20 Cincinatti Reds in the first nine innings of a an extra-inning game. Because the game went to extras, the MLB doesn't include it on the list of "official" 20-K games.

4. 4,000 K Club. On June 29, 2004, against the San Diego Padres, Johnson struck out Jeff Cirillo, for his 4000th career strikeout, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to reach that mark, joining Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton. He's currently second on the all-time list, in the 4,800-range, behind Ryan's 5,714. Johnson should become the second member of the 5,000 K Club.

3. Three World Series Wins. In 2001, while helping lead the Diamondbacks to the franchise's first World Series title, Johnson recorded three wins in the seven game series against the Yankees. In Game 2 he pitched a 3-hit shutout. He pitched 7 in a Game 6 win, and then came in as a reliever in Game 7... on zero days rest. For the series, Johnson recorded 19 strikeouts.

2. 300 Club. June 4, 2009. Johnson went 6 innings, giving up only one run on two hits, becoming the 24th player to join the elite 300-win club.

1. Perfection. Another exclusive club that Johnson maintains membership to. On May 18, 2004, Johnson became just the 17th pitcher in MLB history to pitch perfect game. He struck out 13 Braves in also becoming the oldest player (40) to successfully reach perfection.

Big Unit Gets Big Win: No. 300

Randy Johnson became the 24th pitcher in MLB history to gain access to the elusive 300-win club. He pitched 6 innings, gave up two hits and one run while striking out two.

Congratulations, to one of the best left-handed pitchers (and mullet-rockers) in MLB history.

I was going to go with the 300-themed photoshopping, but it seems The Rookies beat me to it. Instead, I decided to go with a spinoff of a movie poster from the late Bernie Mac's Mr. 3000.


Note: Time-permitting, tomorrow I will take a look back at some of the top moments in The Big Unit's illustrious career.

One of the Saddest Sports-Related Stories You Will Read in a While

A 12-year-old Virginia boy was killed Wednesday night while playing catch with a teammate.

Chelal Gross-Matos, who had scored the only run of the game for his Spotslyvania County Little League team, the Yankees, in the first inning, was struck by lightning not long after umpires had called the game due to the weather. According to authorities, it is believed the lightning's current then traveled to Chelal's teammate, who remained in critical condition and on a ventilator. The teammate's name was not released.

From the Washington Post article:
"'It was like a grenade,' said one of Chelal's teammates, Richard Albright, 11."

According to an interview Chelal's father, Robert Matos, gave to WJLA (video here), Chelal singled in the first. He stole second. Then third. Then he scored. Sadly, it's going to be one of the last memories that Matos will have of his child.

Officials suspended all Little League games until further notice, out of respect for the families involved

It's a terrible story to hear, especially when you note the boy's age: 12. Such a young, promising life taken away because the boy did what many other young kids would have done had their game got cancelled: stick around and toss a ball with a teammate.

What makes this story even harder to grasp, is the rarity of such an accident occuring. According to the National Weather Service, there were only 28 lightning-based fatalities in 2008.

This truly was a freak accident, and my thoughts go out to the families and friends of the two young boys.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"His Name Is Dan Uggla!"

Dan Uggla hit his 100th career home run Tuesday night in the Marlins 10-3 win over the Brew crew. In doing so, Uggla became the fastest second baseman to ever reach the mark. Uggla reached this milestone in his 502nd game at second base, besting the previous record holder, Alfonso Soriano, by 34 games (it took Soriano 536 games to reach the century mark).

So congratulations to Uggla, who at 29 and in only his fourth season in the big leagues, still has a long career ahead of him. That means he has plenty of time to try to overtake the MLB record holder for home runs by a second baseman: Jeff Kent, who is 41 and still playing.

Once again, congrats to Uggla, who, despite me picking him to be the first Fish sold off in the Marlins Trade Pool, continues to work to improve his stats, and according to some, like Juan Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel, is having the best season of his career.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lakers-Magic: Tale of the Tape

So here's a tale of the tape for the 2009 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic to see how the two teams stack up in eight different categories of things other than play on the court.

- Coaching:
Orlando: Stan "The Master of Panic" Van Gundy
L.A.: Phil "The Zen Master" Jackson

Edge: Lakers. Jackson has nine rings, and seeking his tenth. Van Gundy has taken two Florida teams to the Eastern Conference Finals in the last 5 years, and should've had a ring in 2006.

- Best Nickname:
Orlando: Hedo Turkoglu - The Turkish Michael Jordan.
L.A. : Kobe Bryant - The Black Mamba

Edge: Orlando. Huge fan of the self-proclaimed "Turkish MJ" moniker.

- Celebrity Look-Alikes:
Orlando: 4. Van Gundy - Ron Jeremy. Rashard Lewis - T.I.. Anthony Johnson - Ashy Larry. Marcin Gortat - Wooly Willy.
L.A.: 3. Pau Gasol - Pigeon Man from Hey Arnold! or Big Bird, you choose. Adam Morrison and Jim Morrison of The Doors (sans the mustache). Sasha Vujacic and Russell Brand.

Edge: Orlando. 4 > 3.

-Courtside Celebrity:
Orlando: Tiger Woods.
L.A.: Pick a name. I'll go with Jack Nicholson.

Edge: Lakers. As great a golfer as Tiger is, I have to go with Nicholson, because I'll watch any movie he's in. I won't watch any round of golf Tiger's in, just the important ones.

-Better Fourth Quarter Closer:
Orlando: Hedo "The Turkish MJ" Turkoglu
L.A.: Kobe.

Edge: Is this even a question? Lakers. As much as I enjoy Hedo, Kobe is the most clutch player in the league.

-Team Who's Win Will Hurt Shaq's Ego The Most:
Orlando: Shaq said Dwight Howard copies him and his moves. Shaq also famously called SVG the "Master of Panic."
L.A. : Famous feud with Kobe, which at it's most recent, involved Shaq freestyling about Kobe and asking how his "ass tastes." Also had a tiff with Jackson.

Edge: Push. It's a lose-lose situation for Shaq in this year's finals, with either team winning, a blow will be dealt to the Big Aristotle's ever-expanding ego.

- Mascots:
Orlando: "Stuff" or as I like to call him, Puff the Magic Dragon. See what I did there?
L.A. : None.

Edge: Orlando. What kind of sports team doesn't have a mascot? Well, the Lakers, obviously.

- Better Disney Park:
Orlando: Disney World.
L.A.: Disneyland.

Edge: Orlando. In general, I'm not a fan of the Disney theme parks, so neither team wins for that. However, both cities also have a Univeral Studios. In this case, Orlando gets the edge, because they've got better attractions AND they have Islands of Adventure to go with it.

Final Tally: Orlando 4. Los Angeles 3. 1 push.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Patrick, Talk To Da-wight!"

Dwight Howard does a mean Stan Van Gundy impression.

On a side note, I hope Orlando takes the series against the Lakers, for SVG. He should have had a ring in 2006, had Pat Riley not decided for him that SVG wanted to spend more time with his family.

Don't Taze Me, Bro!

Florida starting cornerback Janoris "Leeroy" Jenkins was tasered and arrested this past weekend for public fighting and resisting arrest without violence.

It happened just after 2 a.m. Saturday (when the clubs and bars in Gainesville close). Police said they saw Jenkins punch a man in the head. According to reports, he was taking on five people (FIVE!) at once. When fighting continued, the officers tased him. That's when he tried to run, before being detained.

It hasn't been confirmed, but it is believed that Jenkins was outside of the bar with a group of friends deciding what they were going to do next when he wondered off and confronted the individuals after shouting, "LEEEEEEROYYY JENKINS!"

According to police, Jenkins, who was named to the Freshman All-SEC team last season, said he started the fight because he thought someone was going to steal the chain from around his neck.

His attorney, according to the report, believes Jenkins was acting in self-defense and that charges will not be pursued.