Totally Random

Just call him Little Man Tate.

Not that anyone standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 236 pounds could ever be classified as little. But California linebacker Zack Follett got some of his inspirational mojo from Reebok’s fictional Terry Tate, the "Office Linebacker" star of that vintage 2003 commercial.

Follett was asked at the NFL’s scouting combine last week in Indianapolis about his excitable style.

"I get real pumped up for games," he said. "This is something I love to do, and to do it in front of 70,000 fans, plus people watching at home on an ESPN game, that gets me even more juiced. To go out and have a chance to be on ESPN like that, I think they had me miked up for the game and I was talking about the Pain Train.

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Totally Random

Mark Cuban, left, and Michael Redd.

Never one to be shy, the blogger called his entry “The Mark Cuban Stimulus Plan."

For many sports fans, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks is a real-life cartoon character. Cuban sits behind the Mavericks bench and leans in during timeouts, gets into arguments with players and fans, and seems to draw as many NBA fines as Rasheed Wallace does technical fouls.

But Cuban is money smart. Just before the 1999 dot.com bust he sold his Internet video firm to Yahoo for $5.7 billion.

And, last week on blogmaverick.com, Cuban wrote that he wanted to "get the ball rolling and create jobs" by investing in small businesses. Cuban invited readers to e-mail their business plans. He promised to invest in those plans that he liked.

The post triggered more than 1,400 responses with such wildly different business plans as retail stores that would sell green products, software for law enforcement agencies, texting systems to hail cabs, and an online metal and plastic parts firm.

Cuban expects to invest in two of the firms within the next two weeks, and hopes to subsequently fund five additional plans. He will invest from a minimum of $20,000 to more than $100,000 in each plan.

“Maybe it leads to great things, maybe it leads to nothing," he wrote. "We will find out.”

Trivia time

Who has earned more in his NBA career: Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett?

Who’s on first?

The World Baseball Classic starts in two weeks and the Dominican Republic, with a provisional roster of Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, David Ortiz and Alfonso Soriano, is the favorite to win the tournament at almost even money, according to beted.com. The U.S. is next at almost 2-1, followed by Japan, 7-1, then Cuba and Venezuela at 9-1.

The gambling site doesn’t offer such side bets as whether any Cuban players will defect.

Trivia answer

Garnett’s career NBA pay, including this season, totals $234.9 million compared to Bryant's $148.3 million, according to Basketball-reference.com and Hoopshype.com.

And finally

During the All-Star break, Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace was playing football in the street when he suffered a big gash in his right forearm that required 14 stitches.

In Wallace’s honor, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Branson Wright came up with a list of weird athlete injuries, including: “In 1990, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Glenallen Hill had such a bad dream that he missed his team’s game the next night due to cuts and scrapes suffered while trying (or at least he thought) to fight off spiders.”

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: Mavs owner Mark Cuban, left, reacts after the Bucks' Michael Redd, right, scored during a Jan. 21 game in Milwaukee. Credit: Morry Gash / Associated Press

Totally Random

Dan Blysma

When former Duck Dan Bylsma was named the Penguins’ interim coach Sunday -- replacing the fired Michel Therrien -- it jogged a few memories around the halls of Anaheim.

During the Ducks’ playoff run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2003, Bylsma had a tradition after victories. He was often a healthy scratch but would come rushing into the dressing room in his suit after the game.

“He would yell out, ‘DUCKIES, DUCKIES, DUCKIES, QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!’ ” recalled Alex Gilchrist, the team’s director of media and communications.

The noise level of the quack was ear-splitting. His teammates got a kick out of it. Bottom line: Hockey players are a superstitious lot and if he stood on his head in the dressing room and it resulted in a win, well, that would be fine too.

A good thing Bylsma wasn’t playing in those days for New Jersey, which defeated the Ducks in seven games in the finals. The sound of someone yelling, “DEVILS, DEVILS, DEVILS!” might have been slightly unnerving.

Still, wonder if he plans on making a Penguin noise if Pittsburgh beats Montreal in its next game Thursday.

Trivia time

Which NHL team drafted Bylsma and in what year?

Bring it on

San Francisco columnist Scott Ostler’s lead from Pebble Beach:

"Is that all you’ve got, Mother Nature?"

Ostler, another reporter and a Chronicle photographer decided to play the famous No. 7 hole at Pebble Beach on Sunday after inclement weather halted the tournament.

This expedition was done on the QT, dodging the $495 fee green. Well, as QT as you can get with a column detailing the fun and games the next day in the newspaper.

“Maybe the tourney people will thank me by asking me to play in their fine event next year,” Ostler wrote. “I’ll wait by my mailbox for an invitation.

“Or a restraining order.”

Trivia answer

Winnipeg took him in the sixth round in the 1989 entry draft, but he never played a game for the Jets. He eventually played for the Kings and the Ducks.

And finally

Angles Manager Mike Scioscia was asked Tuesday at spring training whether he was tempted to use performance-enhancing substances near the end of his playing career. He responded by poking fun at his weakness for food: “Tempted? I was worried about what restaurant I was going to eat at. That’s what I was tempted with.”

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins interim Coach Dan Bylsma watches as his team play the Islanders on Monday night at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

Totally Random

Lance Armstrong signs autographs.

What’s the fastest way to keep up with your favorite athlete? Twitter, of course.

Early Sunday morning, Lance Armstrong sent out a message on the popular service detailing a startling revelation. "Whoa!! They just came to my room and said our truck was broken into and someone stole my time trial bike," wrote Armstrong, who’s competing in the Tour of California.

A half-hour later, the seven-time Tour de France winner posted a picture of the black and yellow bike, valued at nearly $10,000, and offered a reward.

Armstrong isn’t alone. Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal sent out a tweet after Sunday’s NBA All-Star game: "Kobe is the best, he told me to take the trophy hm for my sons, class act, thanks bro."

Presumably the Diesel was referring to the All-Star MVP award he and his former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant shared.

Swimmer Michael Phelps also maintains a Twitter account. There are no mentions of marijuana.

Trivia question

Jeff Reed, kicker of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, was cited for criminal mischief and disorderly conduct after allegedly throwing a tantrum in a public restroom on Saturday in Pennsylvania. What NFL position has the most arrests and citations since 2000?

Impostors

Cal State Fullerton baseball players apparently carry some serious weight in Orange County.

According to a statement on the university’s website and a report in the student newspaper, two men have been conning residents of Fullerton, Brea, La Habra and Placentia by posing as Titans baseball players.

The men allegedly went door-to-door soliciting magazine subscriptions, saying it was part of team fundraising for a trip to Hawaii and for a children’s hospital.

However, the university said the team isn’t scheduled to travel to the islands and doesn’t solicit donations in that manner.

Police estimate the con artists received between $50 and $100 per person and possibly took in thousands of dollars per day.

Trivia answer

According to a database compiled by the San Diego Union-Tribune, NFL wide receivers have accrued the most arrests and citations since 2000, with cornerbacks second.

And finally

Byung-Hyun Kim, a former major league pitcher, was dropped from South Korea’s World Baseball Classic squad,the Korea Times reported.

Kim, a free agent who reportedly has been training in Los Angeles, but returned home after injuring his ankle, was excluded from his country’s roster because he had lost his passport.

-- James Wagner

Photo: Lance Armstrong signs autographs before the start of stage one of the Tour of California cycling race in Davis on Sunday. Credit: Sue Cockrell / Davis Enterprise / Associated Press

Totally Random

Serena (left) and Venus Williams

Fighting isn’t a sanctioned high school sport, of course. And neither is boxing. So when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, wrestling is about as close as a teen can get to an MMA or UFC event.

Or maybe watching a hockey game.

Back to wrestling. The popularity of MMA and UFC means participation in high school wrestling is up, according to Southland coaches.

But it’s not all positive. Tap outs are on the rise, meaning toughness is taking a beating. In wrestling, a tap out is a request for an injury timeout, after which the match is restarted.

In MMA, a competitor who is in a submission hold he can't get out of or in pain "taps out," ending the match. Confusion, apparently, is a byproduct because high school wrestlers are often trying to tap their way out of tough spots.

"You give up," said Temecula Valley Coach Arnold Alpert.

Then there’s Morro Bay Coach Mike Aanerud. At a recent meet, he asked a referee to declare a forfeit after one of his wrestlers tapped out.

Guess that won’t be mentioned in the high school yearbook.

Trivia time

Who has made more money in his major league career: Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez?

More A-Rod

There’s just simply never enough about A-Rod, it seems.

Adweek noted the timing of a certain promotional campaign: "Alex Rodriguez is now not only the poster boy for steroids, he is also the poster boy for the World Baseball Classic -- literally."

And this contribution from reader Janice Hough: "If it turns out A-Rod was indeed taking steroids after 2003, we will learn something useful about the drugs -- they don’t work in October.

Sister act

Venus Williams posed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue a few years ago. But it wasn’t for the exposure -- if you’ll excuse the pun -- or getting to go to some exotic location.

Why?

Because her younger sister Serena had done it.

"And I wanted to be like her. So that’s why I did it.," Venus said Wednesday on a conference call.

Will there be a repeat performance?

"If Serena did it, yes," she said.

Trivia answer

Not even close. A-Rod’s baseball pay has been $198.4 million in his career through 2008, versus ‘only’ $162.3 million for Man-Ram, according to Baseball-reference.com.

And finally

Golfer John Rollins, to reporters, on losing the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines: "I still made $574,000. Life isn’t too bad."

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Serena Williams, left, her sister, Venus, talk after winning the women's doubles final at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 30. Credit: Shuji Kajiyama / Associated Press

Totally Random

Chuck Noll

The deification of sports figures continues, this time in Pittsburgh. A regional commission approved plans to name a street near Heinz Field after former Steelers Coach Chuck Noll, who led the team to four Super Bowl titles.

Nearby, streets are already named in honor of Hall of Famer and Pirates star Bill Mazeroski, the late Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr. and former Pitt football star Tony Dorsett.

This idea isn’t new. Boston has the Ted Williams Tunnel; Green Bay named a middle school after Vince Lombardi; and Ty Cobb Place is a subdivision in Austin, Texas.

Perhaps the most extreme memorial for an athlete, however, occurred in the picturesque town of Jim Thorpe (pop. 4,800) in eastern Pennsylvania. This former mining community, once known as Mauch Chunk, was suffering a severe economic downturn in 1953 when Thorpe, the former Olympic and football star, died. Thorpe had no connection with the town, but officials negotiated a deal with his widow to have Thorpe’s remains buried there, and the town was renamed after him in hopes of drawing tourists.

It didn’t work and Jim Thorpe, the town, slipped into obscurity. Only in recent years did Jim Thorpe’s attractive Victorian residences, with their modest prices, begin to lure New Yorkers shopping for bargain weekend homes.

Trivia time

Who is oldest living former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion?

Grapefruit League inflation

We’re in one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, prices are nose-diving and the term disinflation is back in vogue.

So it’s comforting to know that in Florida ticket prices for Red Sox-Yankees spring training games are skyrocketing like Nasdaq stocks of the late ‘90s.

The Red Sox froze ticket prices this year, so tickets for their March 13 game against the Yanks in Fort Myers cost $10 to $46 apiece — but on Stubhub.com those tickets are being resold for $16 to $299. Meanwhile, the sticker shock is worse for the March 24th game in Tampa. Those Yankee tickets, originally $17 to $31, are priced at $36 to $555.

Fortune cookie time

The Yankees are 4-1 favorites to win the 2009 World Series, according to beted.com, followed by the Red Sox and Cubs at about 8-1, with the Angles around 9-1. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are 20-1, although that sounds as if some fans are betting on Manny Ramirez playing here.

Trivia answer

Muhammad Ali, 67.

And finally

From David Letterman’s Top 10 messages left on Alex Rodriguez’s answering machine: "It’s Madonna. You got a phone number for Jeter?"

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll watches his team play to a 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings during Super Bowl IX game in New Orleans on Jan. 12, 1975. Joe Gilliam is to the right. Credit: Associated Press

Totally Random

Cameron Crazies

There are 9,314 seats in Cameron Indoor Stadium -- not counting the ones Coach K, Dick Vitale and the players sit in -- and some people would sell their souls for tickets to Wednesday night's North Carolina-Duke showdown.

Then there is Eddie Goodall, the Republican state senator who offered on EBay to trade his seat in the North Carolina Legislature for tickets. In jest. We think.

"I'm not sure how it works, but I'm just going by what Gov. [Rod] Blagojevich did as a guideline," Goodall told the Charlotte Observer, referring to the former Illinois governor. "He made me aware that these seats are valuable."

Goodall bought his chair -- literally -- when the Senate chambers were renovated several years ago. State law, however, prohibits him from selling the furniture, much less his legislative post.

If Goodall somehow makes it into Cameron for the game, it doesn't sound as if he'll be pulling for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski's lads. Goodall attended North Carolina in 1965 before transferring to North Carolina-Charlotte.

He expected to watch the game from his hotel room in Raleigh, he told the Observer. And he said he really was kidding.

"If politicians could laugh at themselves more," he said, "people would laugh at them less."

Trivia time

Between them, North Carolina and Duke have appeared in 31 Final Fours. Which year did they reach the Final Four together?

She signs autographs too

The par-tay for NBA All-Star weekend in Phoenix is going to be big, but even an All-Star can get lost in the crowd.

Amber Reedy, an Arizona State senior who works as a party hostess at area events, will toil at the VitaminWater Nash Bash hosted by Steve Nash at the Mondrian Scottsdale on Friday. (Minimum donation: $1,300. Dinner: $13,000.)

Reedy told the Arizona Republic about the time she ran into Phoenix Suns star Amare Stoudemire at an event and asked the NBA All-Star to take a picture -- of her, posing with her friends.

"I had no clue who that was," she said. "He looked at me weird. And everyone was like, 'What are you doing?' "

He’s the butt of the joke

In an opportunistic bit of marketing, Gurkha Cigars announced that it had made the first endorsement offer to Michael Phelps since the publication of a photo of the swimmer holding a bong.

Gurkha is offering Phelps $25,000 to be its official "smokesperson."

In a letter to Phelps sent to his agent, Peter Carlisle, Gurkha Cigars CEO Kaizad Hansotia mentioned the "picture of you allegedly engaging in 'extracurricular activities' " and "the unfortunate news of your endorsement deal with Kellogg's."

"We would like to provide you with the opportunity to do what you do best -- smoke and swim."

Trivia answer

In 1991. Duke won the NCAA title, defeating a Kansas team that had beaten North Carolina in the semifinals.

And finally

Arizona State Coach Herb Sendek graduated summa cum laude from Carnegie Mellon, but he didn't sound like the campus genius Tuesday as he wrapped up a lengthy answer to a question about choosing a conference most valuable player.

"The debate will always rage, Kobe or LeBron. In college, there will be those names every year," Sendek said.

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, of course, never went to college.

-- Robyn Norwood

Photo: The Cameron Crazies in action at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Credit: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Totally Random

Darnell Bing following an interception.

Those feel-good spring training stories won't play so well in the wake of New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez's admission he took performance-enhancing drugs as a Texas Ranger.

You know, the smell of fresh-mown grass, the crack of a bat, the limitless possibility of another spring…

Initial reader reaction to a story on a Philadelphia TV station’s website about the World Series champion Phillies trucking 15 cases of chewing gum, 12 cases of sunflower seeds and 15,000 baseballs and other spring-training gear to Clearwater, Fla., was pointed:

"To supply the Phillies? The same thing it takes to supply any Major League team … a case of needles and steroids,” wrote an anonymous reader on NBCPhiladelphia.com.

Trivia time

What Florida city is home to the Yankees’ spring training site? In other words, where will the media circus soon pitch its tents and satellite trucks?

Mouth of the South

Steve Spurrier’s mouth got ahead of him -- again -- in a controversy over what number South Carolina football recruit Alshon Jeffery will wear for the Gamecocks.

The Ol’ Ball Coach told Jeffery -- a receiver who originally committed to USC’s Trojans before signing with the Gamecocks -- that he was seeking to put retired numbers back into use, in part so Jeffery could wear Sterling Sharpe’s retired No. 2.

But an athletic department policy said a retired number can be used only if the player who was honored gives written permission. Sharpe said no -- though he took a few more words to say it, telling a radio interviewer last week he would go into mourning and his "guts will definitely be ripped out" if South Carolina took his number out of mothballs.

Jeffery will wear No. 1 instead, South Carolina announced Sunday. He probably couldn’t have worn No. 2 for the Trojans, either. USC All-American safety Taylor Mays has it, and we say he’d win that wrestling match.

No stiff arm here

The numbers of USC’s seven Heisman Trophy winners are all retired, but Athletic Director Mike Garrett allowed safety Darnell Bing to wear his No. 20 while he was a Trojan.

"Pete Carroll came to me and said, 'You've got to give up your number,' " Garrett said later in Bing’s career. "I said, 'Really.' I said, 'If Bing's that good, let him have it. But if he's not, I want my number back and retired.' "

Bing became an All-American in 2005.

Trivia answer

Tampa.

And finally

Here’s what can happen when a nickname goes from A-list to tabloid and blog fodder. A Google search on Monday for entries containing both the terms "A-Roid" and "A-Fraud" returned 212,000 items.

-- Robyn Norwood

Photo: USC safety Darnell Bing during an Oct. 16, 2004 game. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Totally Random

Manny Ramirez

How could any of us possibly craft headlines or spin out one-liners without the help of punchy movie titles or dialogue?

So be prepared to see a spate of riffs along the lines of a popular new chick flick. There was this reference on the website fark.com, playing off The Times’ interview with one Manny Ramirez:”It’s time for Manny Ramirez to face the cold truth: Baseball is just not that into you."

Until Manny signs — somewhere — we’ll have to hold off on using this other new movie title: “Taken.”

Trivia time

What is Ramirez’s full name?

Great Scott

Figure skater Scott Hamilton wrote about his ability to laugh at himself and not take himself too seriously, rare gifts in that sport.

"I had the great fortune (or misfortune, if you want to look at it that way) of being parodied by not one, but two SNL [‘Saturday Night Live’] comedians back in the 1990s,” he wrote in his recently released book “The Great Eight.”

The comedians were Dana Carvey and David Spade.

“Spade’s Scott Hamilton was truly over the top,” Hamilton wrote. “He wore this ridiculously ugly blond wig that not only poofed skyward but revealed a very bald forehead. He didn’t have to say anything. The wig alone was a riot.”

Manager(s) beware

Apparently, the so-called vote of confidence for a manager or coach means exactly the same thing in Great Britain as it does in the United States.

Start packing your bags and hope you can break the lease.

Feb. 2: Bosses of the soccer club Portsmouth back beleaguered Manager Tony Adams, saying they’re behind him.

Feb. 8: Adams reported in the British media to be gone by Monday after Saturday’s loss in to Liverpool, in which the team gave up two goals in the last five minutes.

The envelope, please ...

Most overblown day in sports? There is plenty of rugged competition in this category — and, surprisingly, the Super Bowl does not win by unanimous vote.

One writer had a different take.

Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote’s nomination wasn’t any of the All-Star games, either. He focused instead on college football letters of intent: “National Signing Day is the most overblown day in sports, turned into an ‘event’ by the Internet, by the myriad of sad websites that heap a premature national spotlight [and undue] pressure on teenagers.”

Trivia answer

Manuel Aristides Ramirez Onelcida.

And finally

Distance runner Katie McGregor, doing her best Howard Hughes impression for Runner’s World magazine: “I’m a little paranoid about germs. I won’t eat food that’s out in bowls because everyone sticks their hands in there. I’ve also used paper towels to open doors.”

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Manny Ramirez during an Oct. 8, 2008 game against the Phillies. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Totally Random

Lisa Leslie

Basketball star Lisa Leslie may not be retiring just yet, not until after this upcoming Sparks season, but her announcement was time for those around her to reflect and make historical comparisons.

"I get a chance to see three of the best retire," Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said. "And be alongside of them, to play with them, and to coach: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and now Lisa Leslie."
His nickname for her was "Smooth."

"I've always said this young lady is like three people," he said. "She's like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, all rolled up in one. That's how good she is."

Cooper went on to break it down and finished up that line of thought, adding: "And her ball-handling skills were better than all three of those players."
Trivia time

What was the former name of the America's Cup yachting race?

More Lakers vs. Celtics

From TNT's Lakers-Celtics game on Thursday, the most-watched regular-season game on TNT since 1996 (when Johnson had just come out of retirement and was facing Michael Jordan's Bulls):

Karl Malone, at halftime in the studio: "How much talent can God bless one guy with? Lamar Odom is one of the most talented guys, 6-10, he can do a lot of things. Last I checked he wanted a new contract. Hey, step up, big fella."

Announcer Doug Collins: Kobe Bryant "can miss 10 straight and think he's hot, that's the beauty of great players, it's 'next play, next play.' "

Heidi, British style

There seems to be a run of TV snafus of late, on both sides of the pond.

On Super Bowl Sunday, there was a programming mishap and some folks in Arizona had their football viewing interrupted by an offering from an "adult cable channel."

Though there was less explaining to do to the children, there was no shortage of anger in Great Britain when the network ITV inexplicably missed Everton's game-winning goal against Liverpool in a crucial FA Cup encounter.

Instead, fans were shown a commercial. Talk about, as they say over there, losing the plot.

The Brits, take two

Manchester City's new acquisition, striker Craig Bellamy, was one step ahead of his checkered reputation, speaking of transgressions of years past.

"If I ever do a book, which I won't, the title will be: 'Don't Google me,' " the Welshman told reporters.

And the sequel?

How about "MySpace is My Space"?

Trivia answer

It was called the Hundred-Guinea Cup in 1851, when the U.S. schooner America won the race.

And finally

Bo Jackson told Leighton Ginn of the Desert Sun about life at Auburn with Charles Barkley.

"Any time the pizza truck came and was going to the basketball players' room, the football players would go up and not ask for pizza, but demand pizza. They were living in our dorm," Jackson said.

"Barkley was smart. Barkley would call up and he would order three pizzas, two for him and one for the football players coming in."

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Lisa Leslie pauses a moment to compose herself as she announces her retirement, effective at the end of the upcoming WNBA basketball season. She appeared at the Sparks' headquarters in El Segundo on Wednesday. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

Totally Random

Sumo wrestler Wakakirin (whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa) is pushed out of the ring by Tamawashi.

The pot scandal rocked a nation, leading to indignant editorials and raising questions about the perceived lost old-school values of the sport.

No, this isn’t about Olympic swim star Michael Phelps.

Think Japan and sumo wrestling.

Now, sumo wrestling, a good excuse to eat massive amounts of potato chips, pizza and Twinkies without suspicion. And who would possibly catch on that it might be the munchies, not a byproduct of a training regime?

Seriously, the scandal has created angst and introspection in Japan after four wrestlers were thrown out of the sport for alleged marijuana use in recent months, according to an Associated Press report on the controversy.

One newspaper used the words “appalled” and “utter folly.”

Another sumo columnist and blogger told the wire service the fairly isolated cases did not mean there was a breakdown in the “discipline” of sumo.

Glad to hear it. No one wants that ancient sport to go up in smoke.

Trivia Time

From the reference site, thebaseballpage.com: What was Rickey Henderson’s stolen-base average against left-handed and right-handed pitchers?

Rickey on Rickey

It’s all about the third person when it comes to Henderson.
He rarely missed an opportunity to refer to him himself in third person. Wonder if he did when the story came out that he didn’t cash a $1-million bonus check, throwing off the accounting department of the Oakland A’s back in the ’80s.

Henderson framed it and put it on his wall.

It’s not hard to imagine him saying, “Rickey doesn’t put Rickey’s money in the sock drawer.”

Youth movement

This was a particularly clever introduction on the foxsports.com website about the upcoming marriage between Red Sox owner John Henry, 59, and his girlfriend, Linda Pizzuti, who is, well, younger:

The Red Sox are trying to put an emphasis on developing youth. But this may be taking it a bit far.

She is a mere 29 years younger than Henry.

As you might guess, he is getting props from Red Sox Nation and those living elsewhere.

One fan wrote on the foxsports site: “This guy is a modern day hero!!!”

Then again, this probably would be greeted with a yawn in Hollywood. After all, that’s practically the same peer group around here.

Trivia answer

Rickey against right-handed pitchers: 83.5%. Rickey against left-handed pitchers: 75.5%.

And finally

Ron LeFlore, to the Sporting News magazine on whether headfirst slides were good or bad: “Rickey Henderson didn’t get hurt doing it. But he was a freak of nature.”

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Sumo wrestler Wakakirin (whose real name is Shinichi Suzukawa) falls from the ring after being pushed by opponent Tamawashi during a Jan. 29 bout in Tokyo. He was the fourth wrestler in Japan's ancient sport to become involved in a widening drug scandal. Credit: Kyodo News / Associated Press

Totally Random

Joe Torre, left, and David Letterman

Tis the season ... for baseball books.

With spring training a few days away, there are the usual odes to that time of year, first-person accounts of time spent in the game and, naturally, the much-discussed Joe Torre tome.

Then there’s “101 Reasons to Love the Phillies.” (I’m guessing "101 Reasons to Hate the Yankees" would be an even bigger seller.)

In any event, author Ron Green Jr. provides an entertaining history lesson about the 2008 World Series champions. Reason No. 1: 10,000 Losses

“It’s a perverse point of pride among Phillies fans — being the first and, so far, only major league team to lose 10,000 games — but it’s part of what made the franchise beloved by so many.”

Add Phillies

And, speaking of perverse Phillies’ lore, Reason No. 40 truly fits that description: Alice Roth’s Tough Day.

She was the wife of the Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor and she was hit twice by foul balls (minutes apart by Richie Ashburn) at a game Aug. 17, 1957, suffering a broken nose and then getting hit in the face again as she was being carried out of the ballpark on a stretcher.

Can just envision that headline — Roth’s ERA: Emergency Room Appointment.

Trivia time

Philadelphia and San Diego played a rain-plagued doubleheader that resulted in the latest finish ever. Where and what year was the game played?

Warring Warriors?

This will come as a huge surprise to Clippers’ fans, but Corey Maggette apparently has upset his new teammates at Golden State with his selfish play. (Yes, that was meant to be sarcastic.)

Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times wrote that during the Warriors’ overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Maggette and Jamal Crawford had a “heated exchange,” according to a source, and Crawford got on Maggette about his selfish play.

Crawford responded when reached via e-mail: “Don’t want to talk about it. We’ll keep that in house.”

Always like a creative way of saying no comment.

And I’m wondering whether Maggette is longing for the Clippers days of old when he watched hours and hours of film.

Trivia answer

At Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium in 1993. The Padres won the opener, 5-2, and the Phillies took the second, 6-5 in 10 innings.
It ended at 4:40 a.m. Too bad no one was blogging in those days.

And finally

The Dodgers’ Torre appeared on “Live With Regis and Kelly” and was asked by Regis Philbin about having managed Manny Ramirez last season.

“I had [Nomar] Garciaparra, I had Derek Lowe and I had Manny, and it was so nice to have the other manager worry about getting him out,” Torre said.

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Dodgers manager Joe Torre, left, talks with host David Letterman during Wednesday night's "The Late Show with David Letterman." Letterman is paging through "The Yankee Years," which Torre co-wrote with Tom Verducci. Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab / CBS / Associated Press

Totally Random

Tough Guy challenge

Imagine the surprise of thousands of Comcast subscribers in Tucson watching the Super Bowl on Sunday and seeing it interrupted by pornographic content.

The company said it was an "isolated malicious act," the Arizona Daily Star reported. The U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix said it was looking into the interruption, which lasted about 30 seconds and featured full male nudity.

It's unclear how many viewers saw the clip from a porn movie being shown on a pay-per-view adult cable channel offered by Comcast.

The Daily Star reported that it was flooded with calls Sunday night from irate viewers who said the porn cut into the game with less than three minutes to play, just after wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald scored to put the Arizona Cardinals in the lead.

Extreme sport

Here's a sport where you have to be tough.

A broken neck, a dozen broken or dislocated bones and 600 people struck down with hypothermia -- including the winner -- meant it was business as usual in what has been dubbed the world's toughest endurance battle, the Tough Guy challenge in England in sub-zero temperatures.

There were about 6,000 competitors in a challenge that wasn't without controversy, with eventual winner James Appleton overtaken in the last 100 yards by a competitor later disqualified for taking a short cut.

The event -- near Wolverhampton, England -- now in its 24th year, offered the chance to crawl through barbed wire, vault over burning tires and swing through manure-filled mud.

Trivia time

Which teams have lost in the Super Bowl and won the championship the next season?

Nice call

President Obama was rooting for Pittsburgh, but that didn't stop him from making a congratulatory call to Arizona Coach Ken Whisenhunt. Obama made the call a day after the Cardinals were beaten by the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Whisenhunt said the call came after he returned to his home Monday afternoon. "He called my cellphone. I don't know how they got my number," Whisenhunt said. "I was humbled and I was stunned."

Trivia answer

Dallas lost to the Baltimore Colts in 1971, but in 1972 the Cowboys beat Miami to win the Super Bowl. And the Dolphins also came back to win the Super Bowl over the Washington Redskins in 1973.

And finally

Shawn Sedonis, 40, and his son, Garrett, 8, arrived about 8:30 a.m., for the Steelers victory parade. Garrett held a cardboard sign saying, "Sorry Teach, I Have Sixburgh Fever" -- to explain his absence from elementary school.

-- Broderick Turner

Photo: A competitor runs through fire during the Tough Guy Challenge at South Perton Farm on Feb. 1 in Wolverhampton, England. Credit: Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

Totally Random

Super Bowl MVP Santanio Holmes and friend.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Santonio Holmes was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII for his game-winning, tippy-toe six-yard touchdown catch that pushed the Steelers to a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

But Holmes' story is about so much more than that catch, or his MVP trophy. It includes a drug history that has threatened to pull him under.

During the week before the Super Bowl, Holmes never backed away when reporters asked about how he sold drugs as a teenager in Belle Glade, Fla. He owned up to more recent mistakes, including a marijuana possession charge in October that earned him a one-game suspension. Holmes said the final indignity was when he had to miss a game against the New York Giants in October: "It was my first game missing. It hurt."

Holmes said his goal is to be a better example for the kids who look up to him.

Trivia time

Name the Pittsburgh Steelers who have won the team's six Super Bowl MVP awards.

Super Bowl lowlights

The Steelers have their Super Bowl highlights, the Tampa police have theirs: 26 arrests, 18 ejections and four small planes that breached the secure air space above Raymond James Stadium.

Police say they arrested nine people for selling counterfeit tickets Sunday. One person was arrested on suspicion of selling counterfeit NFL merchandise. Two others were accused of selling fake game credentials.

Two people allegedly tried to steal their way into the stadium. Police say they swiped tickets from a fan, but dropped them while attempting to flee from officers. The tickets were worth $800 apiece.

No word on who the Tampa police named as their MVP.

Money well spent

You’ll donate money to who we tell you to.

That seemed to be the message that the NBA sent to Dallas Mavericks billionaire owner Mark Cuban when the league refused to allow him to make a donation to a charity in J.R. Smith’s name.

Cuban was fined $25,000 for what the NBA called an "improper interaction" with the Denver guard during a Mavericks’ loss to the Nuggets on Jan. 13. Cuban was upset with an elbow thrown by Smith that missed Dallas’ Antoine Wright, arguing that Smith should have been suspended.

In the past, when Cuban has been fined by the NBA, he matched the amount and donated it to charity. The NBA wasn’t going for that this time, apparently feeling that Cuban was taking a dig at the league.

Trivia answer

Santonio Holmes (2009), Hines Ward (2006), Terry Bradshaw (1979 & 1980), Lynn Swann (1976), Franco Harris (1975).

And finally

Phil Mickelson told Golf.com before the FBR Open, his 2009 debut on the PGA Tour, that he has been using “devices” to help him retrain his eyes so he can line up putts better. He didn’t elaborate on what the devices were, but said he expected to have a good putting year.

So far, so, er, not so good.

He missed the cut by seven shots and his putting average ranks 156th on tour.

-- Broderick Turner

Photo: Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes rides in a celebratory parade with Mickey Mouse on Monday at the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Credit: Kent Phillips / Disney / Associated Press

Totally Random

Mike Dunleavy

Hey, there really are Clippers fans out there. They may be disgruntled. OK, they are disgruntled. Well, at least one of them is, and he is calling for the head of Coach Mike Dunleavy.

Bill Simmons, a columnist for ESPN.com, took quite a few shots at Dunleavy during a recent online chat. Simmons is a Clippers season-ticket holder who claims to have attended 11 or 12 games this season. He's upset about the Clippers’ not “firing” Dunleavy, whom Simmons called a “fraud.”

(Usually a coach is fired by the general manager. But given that Dunleavy is the GM and coach, it’s unlikely that this particular GM would fire himself as coach).

Anyway, Simmons said the Clippers players “hate” Dunleavy, and the fans “hate” Dunleavy.  Nice guy that he is, Simmons is willing to let Dunleavy keep his job as GM.

Well, at least Clipper Nation is alive and well.

NBA All-Star snub

If you ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, their point guard, Mo Williams, got snubbed by Eastern Conference coaches who didn't vote him onto the NBA All-Star team as a reserve.

Williams tried to remain cool about it. But his teammates took care of things for him. You’ve got to love the things Cleveland’s Ben Wallace said about Williams' absence. “It’s a tragedy,” Wallace told reporters.

Really, a family losing its house is a tragedy -- missing the All-Star team isn’t.

Then there was LeBron James, who was voted onto the All-Star team as a starter. He said the snub of Williams demonstrated how coaches “disrespect” Cleveland. The best comment, though, was from Wallace, who said it was a shame and a mockery and then blended the two words to come up with "shamockery."

Trivia time

How many times was former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar selected to the All-Star team?

Mascot-gate

The Boston Celtics mascot, that little gymnastic leprechaun, was either fired or quit. The agent for the former mascot told the Boston Globe that his client, Damon Lee Blust, and the team “mutually agreed to relieve” him of his duties.

Blust would jump, do a flip and dunk a basketball.

Celtics brass called it a private matter.

Either way, the little guy is done.

Trivia answer

Abdul-Jabbar made 19 All-Star teams, the most in NBA history.

And finally

Conan O’Brien on President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony: “During NBC’s coverage, Brian Williams said that the inauguration is like the Super Bowl. Yeah. The only difference is that the New York Jets had a chance to go to the inauguration.”

-- Broderick Turner

Photo: Mike Dunleavy. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Totally Random

Herm Edwards

The news release from VPI Pet Insurance began, “True Dedication is not measured in ticket sales or Terrible Towels. True dedication is the fan with a cat named Roethlisberger or a poodle named Polamalu.”

Hard to argue with that.

For fun, VPI used its database of more than 467,000 insured pets to find which of the Super Bowl participants had inspired the most fans to name pets after its team or players. The Steelers won, 159-76 — not even counting the pets obviously named after left tackle Max Starks, who surely inspired the nation’s most popular name for dogs and cats.

Winging it

Still speaking, sort of, about animals and football, the National Chicken Council wants to make sure you know there will be chicken wings available this weekend for scarfing -- about 38.3 million pounds of them -- despite troubling reports of a potential shortage spanning from their hometown in Buffalo all the way to Seattle.

While it’s true that production is down and prices are up, "there’s plenty of wings," said Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council in Washington.

Buffalo could never win a Super Bowl, but what would a game be without a few Buffalo wings?

Trivia time

And, speaking of Buffalo, every football fan knows the Bills lost a record four consecutive Super Bowls, from 1991 to 1994. Which other NFL franchises have lost as many?

Super bites

Something called the Center for Consumer Freedom is barking about what it claims is an "irresponsible" list of supposedly unhealthy Super Bowl party foods compiled by another group.

The list was compiled by an animal-rights spinoff, the Center reported, and was designed "to demonize the consumption of beef, pork, poultry and fish."

"Super Bowl Sunday is about watching football and eating food, not hugging cows and saving chickens," the Center’s director of research, David Martosko, was quoted as saying. "I’m throwing a flag ... personal foul for unnecessary buzz kill."

Trivia answer

Minnesota (1970, '74, '75, '77) and Denver (1978, '87, '88, '90).

And finally

Herm Edwards on Thursday became the latest unemployed former NFL player and coach to join the ESPN broadcast booth, saying in a statement that he planned "to be truthful with my opinions on all the issues that take place on and off the field of play."

An honorable goal. And here’s the truth about Herm: He stunk as coach of the Chiefs — 15-33 in three seasons.

-- Mike Hiserman

Photo: Former Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards in a 2007 file photo. Credit: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

Totally Random

Colin Montgomerie

To some American golf fans, he’s the dour Scot who bristles at fans who move or even dare whisper while he’s trying to play a shot, but to the Europeans, he’s the quick-witted icon who now holds their international golf aspirations in his hands.

Colin Montgomerie, sometimes referred to derisively as Mrs. Doubtfire and heckled extensively during the boisterous 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Mass., on Wednesday was named captain of the European team for the 2010 Ryder Cup, to be played in Wales.

Montgomerie has the second-best career record for a European Cup player and was on the winning team in five of his eight appearances as a player but did not play when the U.S. won the Cup last summer.
“I want to put a smile back on faces,” Montgomerie said. “... I can say that everyone who plays for me will have fun.”

Chances are, the heckling will be at a minimum in Wales.

Trivia time

What NFL quarterback completed only 13 of 32 passes, with four interceptions and no touchdowns in four Super Bowls, yet was on the winning team in three?

Bully for the NFL

The worldwide economic gloom hasn’t hit the NFL — at least in England.

The 70,000 tickets put on sale for next October’s regular-season game between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at London’s Wembley Stadium were sold out in 24 hours. About 20,000 of the tickets went in the first seven minutes Tuesday.

Sales were more brisk than the previous two games in London — between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins in 2007 and New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers in 2008.

Fed up

Serena and Venus Williams decided against playing for the United States in the first round of the Fed Cup against Argentina, leaving the U.S. team with this star-studded roster:

Bethanie Mattek, Jill Craybas, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber. Mattek is more known for her wild attire — a leopard print outfit, a striped cowboy hat, low-slung top — than her game.

Total WTA Tour career tournament victories for that group: one.

Trivia answer

Earl Morrall, who played for the Colts in their loss to the Jets in 1969, and won with the Colts in 1971 and Miami Dolphins in 1973 and ’74, though he didn’t play in the Dolphins’ victories.

And finally

Shaquille O’Neal, the man of a million self-imposed nicknames, has another one, now that so many of the league’s long-range shooters are European, according to Phoenix Suns Coach Terry Porter: “He was calling himself Peja Shaqovic the other day.”

-- Mike James

Credit: Colin Montgomerie. Credit: Kamran Jebreili / Associated Press

Totally Random: John Updike, Ted Williams, Shaq

Ted Williams 1 Ted Williams 2 Ted Williams 3

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Updike, who died Tuesday, was a baseball fan pure and simple. Anyone doubting the depth of his feelings for the game need only refer to a New Yorker magazine piece he penned in 1960 on Red Sox legend Ted Williams.

It was a 5,880-word essay, each sentence perfectly crafted. Here are just a few of them about watching the home run that Williams hit in his final at-bat. Williams was 42 at the time. Updike was 28.

"The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. ...

"Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs -- hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted, ‘We want Ted’ for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back."

One man could hit. The other could write.

Trivia time

Who is the youngest golfer ever to take part in the Masters tournament at Augusta?

Sizeable error

Noting that Shaquille O’Neal’s middle name of Rashaun translates from Islam as Little Warrior, O’Neal biographer and Washington Post writer Mike Wise once asked his mother if she ever regretted the choice.

"I knew I made a mistake when the train conductor wouldn’t believe his age and tried to make me pay more money," Lucille O’Neal said. "Shaquille was so big, I used to have to take his birth certificate everywhere. I think I put it in his pocket at Halloween because none of the neighbors believed a boy that large was 10 years old."

Trivia answer

Tommy Jacobs, who was 17 years, one month and 21 days old when he appeared as an amateur in 1952.

And finally

When the New Zealand cricket team arrived in Sydney on Wednesday (Australia time), it was greeted with a photograph of the team in the Daily Telegraph under the headline: "Even this useless lot say they can beat us."

-- Grahame L. Jones

Photos: Ted Williams is shown in sequence, left to right, hitting a home run against the Kansas City Royals in 1956. Credit: Associated Press.

Totally random

Matt Cassel could not beat out Matt Leinart in a quarterback competition in the spring of 2003, but he never complained about having to sit behind Carson Palmer and Leinart as they won Heisman trophies at USC.

Cassel’s breakout season for the New England Patriots -- in a contract year -- apparently has not changed him.

ESPN’s Bram Weinstein asked Cassel if there should be a quarterback competition this summer if Tom Brady returns from a knee injury and Cassel is still with the Patriots.

"This is Tom’s team," Cassel said. "The Patriots have been Tom’s team. He’s built that franchise up with his own two hands. He’s the guy, and he was the MVP the year before. I realize that.

"He’s been such a mentor for me that I would say, 'No, there is no quarterback competition.' But I’ve learned so many things from Tom, and hopefully it’ll help me in my career."

Trivia time

How many USC players have been chosen No. 1 overall in the NFL draft?

Getting ahead of themselves

An English amateur soccer team recently mourned the death of one of its former players with tributes by the club that were covered in the local press to the 86-year-old man. There was only one problem. He is still alive.

An official of the club, which had held a moment of silence in Tommy Farrer’s memory before a recent match, called his wife to offer condolences.

Gladys Farrer said her husband had indeed departed -- but only for a few minutes to buy a newspaper.

Farrer, a former England amateur who played in three Wembley finals, said in Friday editions of the Northern Echo: "We are not upset, but we did think it was a bit of a joke at first."

Farrer said he wants to play down the mistake, saying it was time to "let it die."

Trivia answer

Five. Offensive lineman Ron Yary (1968, Minnesota Vikings), running back O.J. Simpson (1969, Buffalo Bills), running back Ricky Bell (1977, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), receiver Keyshawn Johnson (1996, New York Jets), quarterback Carson Palmer (2003, Cincinnati Bengals).

And finally

The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla puts X Games star Shaun White in some pretty good company.

"At 5 foot 9 and 145 pounds, White casts a shadow that has eclipsed his sport. In the world of snowboarding, he is Tiger Woods. The New York Yankees. And the iPod. Combined."

-- Gary Klein

Totally Random: New Jersey Institute's steely determination

Virginia Tech players celebrate their 78-71 win over No. 1-ranked Wake Forest. "They got a name for the winners of the world.
''I want a name when I Iose.
''They call Alabama the Crimson Tide.
''Call me Deacon Blues.''

Steely Dan might have to rewrite those lyrics after Wake Forest was voted No. 1 this week in college basketball ...

Oh, what? Never mind. The Demon Deacons lost on Wednesday night at home to Virginia Tech and play No. 2 Duke in their next game.

Deacon Blues indeed.

But Wake Forest's loss wasn't the upset of the night.

That came when the New Jersey Institute of Technology broke its 51-game NCAA losing streak with a 61-51 victory over Bryant (No Relation to Kobe) University.

That was the top news story Wednesday on New Jersey's Institute of Science & Technology website.

The rest of the headlines concerned, well, science and technology.

Perhaps someone there can explain this from the same Steely Dan song:

"This is the day
"of the expanding man.''

Trivia Time

Who has the longest losing streak in NCAA college basketball history?

Winners, at last

Dallas Academy's high school girls' basketball team lost a Jan. 13 game, 100-0, to the Covenant School.

The athletic director of the school, which works with students with learning problems, counted it in the win column.

"My girls never quit,'' Jeremy Civello told the Dallas Morning News. "They played as hard as they could to the very end. They played with all their hearts at 70-nothing, 80-nothing and 100-nothing. I was really proud of them.''

A week later, Civello found out that the game might actually count as a victory.

According to the Associated Press, officials from the Covenant School, a Dallas Christian academy, have notified the Texas Assn. of Private and Parochial Schools that they want to forfeit.

"Victory without honor is a great loss,'' the school said.

It will be Dallas Academy's only victory of the season. Its headmaster has canceled a Jan. 30 game against Covenant and has withdrawn from the league for the rest of the season.

Trivia Answer

NJIT's 51-game streak would be a Division I record. But the Highlanders are in only their third season in the top division, not long enough to have their records count. Sacramento State holds the official Division I record at 34.

And finally

The NCAA's all-division record is 117 held by Division III Rutgers-Camden. Caltech, also Division III, actually lost 207 consecutive games against NCAA opponents before snapping the streak with an 81-52 victory over Bard College on Jan. 6, 2007. But only 59 of the losses counted toward the record because of a 2004 over Life College of San Dimas, a non-NCAA team.

-- Randy Harvey

Photo: Virginia Tech players celebrate their 78-71 win over No. 1-ranked Wake Forest. Credit: Steve Dykes / US Presswire

Totally Random

As the daylight hours keep lengthening, it's time to think about Alaska and the upcoming 104th Midnight Sun Baseball Classic.

Since 1906 there’s been a late-night baseball game played on the summer solstice in Fairbanks, where on June 21, about 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the sun basically doesn’t set.

Lore has it that this tradition began as a contest between two local bars. It’s now a major social event in Fairbanks, with the first pitch thrown at 10:30 p.m. and with the game usually ending by 1 or 2 a.m., and played without any artificial light.

The hometown amateur team is the Alaska Goldpanners and former players include ex-big leaguers Tom Seaver, Barry Bonds, Dave Winfield and Bill Lee.

Seaver pitched in the '65 midnight game.

Lee, the former-Red Sox southpaw, took the loss in the 1967 Midnight Sun game and it obviously bothered him, though probably not as much as blowing a three-run lead in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series.

Nevertheless, last summer at age 61 Lee got his revenge. He started for the Goldpanners, pitched six innings, gave up four runs and got the win.

For those of you planing to attend this year’s Midnight Sun game, the Goldpanners will host the Lake Erie Monarchs. Gates open at 8 p.m. Passes are $10. And at the half inning closest to midnight, the game is halted for the singing of the "Alaska Flag Song."

Trivia time

Since 2000 what's the longest winless streak Tiger Woods has suffered in a calendar year on the PGA Tour? A. 3 tournaments without a win. B. 5. C. 8. D. 15.

Bottom dwellers

With the NBA All-Star game coming up, let's look at some of the worst performers in the league this season in some key statistical areas, through Tuesday.

Worst free-throw shooter (minimum 50 attempts): Kwame Brown, ex-Lakers center now with the Pistons, is shooting 38.5%.

Most personal fouls per game: Paul Millsap, Utah, 3.9.

Worst three-point shooter (minimum 50 attempts): Marquis Daniels, Indiana guard, 18.2%.

Most turnovers per game: Stephen Jackson, Warriors, 3.9.

Trivia answer

D. In 2004 Woods won only one tournament on the PGA Tour — and he played 15 consecutive events without winning.

And finally

From David Letterman’s Top Ten Signs You Are Watching Too Much Football:

"6. Got a telestrator in the bedroom."

-- Barry Stavro

Totally Random

Leinart_300Some might wonder whether Richard Bloch wakes up at night screaming, "Tails! Tails!"

The Arizona Cardinals are headed to the Super Bowl. The Diamondbacks have won a World Series. And the Phoenix Suns? Well,  their success level rates a poor third among the area's pro sports teams.

That could have been avoided had Bloch, the owner who convinced the NBA that Phoenix could support a pro team, had not called "heads" during an infamous coin toss 40 years ago. It came up tails and the Milwaukee Bucks ended up  getting Lew Alcindor in the draft.

The Suns have been on the wrong  side of the NBA  tracks ever since. They've been to the Finals twice, in 1976 and 1993, losing both times. They've had prequels (Gail Goodrich was a Sun before helping the Lakers to the 1972 title) and sequels (Shaquille O'Neal, like so many others, is preparing to retire in Arizona after winning four titles elsewhere).

There's little chance the Cardinals will bring Bloch with them for the Super Bowl coin toss. One Bloch "heads" move is enough.

Trivia time

Matt Leinart (shown above congratulating Kurt Warner) is about to become the seventh former USC quarterback to hold a clipboard on the sideline during the Super Bowl. Name the others.

Maybe Samantha would have helped?

Residents of Pottsville, Pa., had a strong desire to see the Cardinals fail Sunday. The 1925 Pottsville Maroons beat the Chicago Cardinals in the NFL title game, but the Cardinals are recognized as the 1925 champs because the Maroons were sanctioned by the league.

Mayor John D.W. Reiley told the Allentown Morning Call: "We're going to have to call a meeting of the warlocks and witches to reinstitute this hex we have on the Cardinals."

Reiley, who told the paper he is Roman Catholic, should have known better. Invoking black magic has to be a Cardinal sin.

Sign language

A Pittsburgh Steelers fan added insult to the Baltimore Ravens' night Sunday, displaying a sign that read: "You're still Cleveland to us."

Trivia answer

Pete Beathard (Kansas City Chiefs, 1967), Mike Rae (Oakland, 1977), Rob Hertel (Philadelphia, 1981), Rob Johnson (Tampa Bay, 2003), Rodney Peete (Carolina, 2004) and Matt Cassel (New England, 2008). None played in the game.

It's probably not a list Mark Sanchez aspires to make.

And finally

TV personality Stephen Colbert, noting that a patch the New York Mets will wear on their uniforms this season looks suspiciously like the Domino's Pizza logo: "It's all part of the Mets' pledge to eliminate themselves from the playoffs in 30 games or less."

-- Chris Foster

Photo credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Totally Random

Barack Obama merchandise is selling fast.

There were reams of stories about Barack Obama's technically challenged golf game during his recent vacation in Hawaii. But the nation's first left-hander also wanted to spend some time on the basketball court, and decided to get together with some of his former teammates at Punahou High for a few pickup games.

One of the players Obama went against was professional golfer Parker McLachlin, whose father, Chris, was Obama's coach at Punahou and had invited his son to the gathering.

The younger McLachlin ended up guarding the next president of the United States in one game ... at Obama's choice.

Parker told PGATour.com about the matchup: "My team had the ball first and he said, 'OK, I'll guard the golfer.' He was making fun of me because I didn't have any basketball shoes. All I had were tennis shoes....

"He looks over at my dad and he's, like, 'Coach, what's the deal? You can't afford to buy your son some basketball shoes?' "

Obama's team won that game, 21-17, though he made only one basket while guarded by the guy in the tennis shoes.

"He liked to drive," McLachlin said. "But when you're the president-elect, nobody's going to get in your way. The seas kind of part a little bit."

Trivia time

The Arizona Cardinals (Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona) are trying to become only the second franchise that has relocated two times to win a Super Bowl. What is the one franchise that won a Super Bowl after relocating twice?

Chief merchandiser-elect

Barack Obama hot sauce There's a new king of collectibles on the national scene. No, not Tiger, not MJ, not LeBron. But it's another guy who needs only one name to be identified: Barack.

According to some estimates, sales of Barack Obama merchandise and collectibles have gone past $200 million in the last two months. Plates, baseball caps for the inauguration, golf balls with his mug....

"Everybody's just Obama crazy. It's madness right now," Johndell McLean, who works at a shop on Capitol Hill selling Obama products, told CNBC.com.

"Whatever it is that has Obama on it, they like it. Everything is selling."

Of course, as an elected official, Obama isn't the beneficiary of all the sales, only the inspiration.

Money shots

One way UCLA is trying to promote its women's basketball program is with a halftime shooting contest. All a fan needs to do is make four baskets, one from half court, in 25 seconds to collect a bonus that started at $100,000 and has been bumped $10,000 for every game when no one collected. The prize for the Jan. 22 game at Pauley Pavilion against Washington State will now be a whopping $200,000.

Trivia answer

The Cleveland-Los Angeles-St. Louis Rams, who won the Super Bowl in 2000 ... quarterbacked by Kurt Warner, who's now the Cardinals' signal caller.

And finally

Michael Strahan appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and was introduced as "Sack-O-Lantern," a reference to the gap in his front teeth. Strahan said that was perhaps the worst of the many gap-tooth jokes he had heard, but he said he liked this one: "There's a sign on the left tooth that points to the right tooth that says, 'Next tooth one mile.' "

-- Mike James

Photo (top): Barack Obama merchandise. Credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP

Photo (inset): Presidential hot sauce. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Totally Random

Sen. Tom Coburn, left, sings Elton John's "Rocket Man" while Sen. Bill Nelson watches.

Sen. Tom Coburn from Oklahoma paid off his BCS title game bet by singing Elton John’s “Rocket Man” in the nation’s capital Wednesday.

Coburn made a wager with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and lost it when the Gators beat the Sooners, 24-14. Nelson picked “Rocket Man” because he is a former astronaut. So Coburn, with a printout of the lyrics in hand, belted out the ’70s hit, although he strained on some high notes. “Elton John is a little tough,” he said.

Had Nelson lost, he would have sung the title song from the musical “Oklahoma!”

The Keystone Bowl?

Some sports books have the Philadelphia Eagles four-point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, with the Pittsburgh Steelers favored by six over the Baltimore Ravens.
Gambling site Sportsbetting.com pegs the Steelers as a 3-2 favorite to win the 2009 Super Bowl, followed by the Eagles at 2-1, the Ravens at 3-1, and the Cardinals at 5-1.

Trivia time

When was the last time two teams from the same state played in a Super Bowl?

Triple play in left field

Jim Rice’s election to the Hall of Fame set a precedent that will be tough for another team to match, because he became the third consecutive Red Sox left fielder to get into Cooperstown.

Ted Williams was a rookie in 1939 and retired in 1960. Carl Yastrzemski replaced him in 1961, then Rice became a regular left fielder in 1975 when Yaz played at first.

Yastrzemski, who won seven Gold Gloves, helped Rice by giving him his fielder’s glove. “Yes, I gave him a glove, but it was one of the ones I hadn’t broken in yet,” Yastrzemski told the Boston Globe. “I used the same outfielder’s glove my whole career and I’ve got it at home. You could say it’s pretty well broken in. It’s probably only half the size of the ones they use today.”

Trivia answer

It was Super Bowl XXIX in 1995 when the San Francisco 49ers battered the San Diego Chargers, 49-26. Steve Young was the most valuable player and passed for a record six touchdowns, eclipsing the record of five by his 49ers’ predecessor, Joe Montana.

And finally

Rice and Rickey Henderson celebrated their Hall of Fame selections by presenting the Top Ten list of their career highlights on David Letterman’s show. One of Rice’s lines: “Before every game, I ate the same meal: pancakes smothered in pine tar.”

-- Barry Stavro

Photo: Sen. Tom Coburn, left, sings Elton John's "Rocket Man" while Sen. Bill Nelson watches. Credit: Lawrence Jackson / Associated Press

Totally Random: Baracklyn promotion in the bush leagues

Barack Obama

Fans of the Brooklyn Cyclones might not be able to get a bailout, but they can benefit from the Class A baseball team's "Economic Stimulus Package.''

From Jan. 20 -- Inauguration Day -- until Jan. 23, the Cyclones will sell tickets for the upcoming season for $5 to $10, down from the regular prices of $8 to $15, the Mets' affiliate reports on its website.

Consistent with the current affairs theme, the team also will change its name on June 23-- Inauguration Tuesday of the 2009 New York/Penn League season -- to Baracklyn.

On that day, the first 1,000 fans through the turnstiles will receive bandages for their universal health care; all fans named Barack will be admitted for free; and fans named McCain or Palin will receive bleacher seats. Plumbers named Joe will receive two tickets.

Four tickets for THE Barack and his family have been reserved behind home plate.

The first 2,500 fans will receive Barack Obama bobblehead dolls.

And, upon leaving the stadium, all fans will receive American flags.

The Cyclones call it a "clear-cut exit strategy.''

Trivia time

Who was the last president to attend a baseball game in Brooklyn?

Charles Barkley benched

Charles Barkley's drunken driving arrest on New Year's Eve continues to cost him air time.

After taking a leave of absence from TNT's "Inside the NBA'' studio show, Barkley's commercials for T-Mobile have been pulled, AdAge reports.

"As he works through his personal matters, we will evaluate where to go from here,'' a company spokesman told AdAge.

Barkley appeared in a series of popular commercials with the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade. Wade pleaded to be included among Barkley's "Fave 5" cell phone numbers, regretted it when Barkley wouldn't quit calling him with advice, then rejected Barkley's appeal to be one of his "Fave 5.''

Reconsider, Dwyane. Sounds like Chas needs a BFF.

Hoya means what?

John Thompson III, Georgetown's basketball coach, might want to quit listening to sports talk radio, especially when the one talking is his dad.

John Thompson Jr., the former Georgetown coach, recently told listeners of his show on Washington's WTEM that the Hoyas could cure their rebounding problems if they had some "thugs.''

As college basketball blog Rush the Court points out, Thompson, who was known for defending his players against such labeling, would have taken "umbrage'' if any media type had suggested when he was coaching that some college basketball players were thugs.

To his credit, JTIII, while acknowledging his team's rebounding deficiencies, said merely that the Hoyas need players "with a nose for the ball.''

Trivia answer

Dwight Eisenhower threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the opening game of the 1956 World Series at Ebbets Field.

And finally

David Letterman says: "Last week in the playoffs, Peyton Manning lost and this week Eli Manning lost. I'm telling you, the Manning brothers are starting to look like the Lehman Brothers.''

-- Randy Harvey

Photo: A 1960s-era photo shows Barack Obama swinging a baseball bat in Hawaii. Credit: Obama Presidential Campaign / Associated Press

Totally Random

Rickey1

Rickey Henderson received votes from 94.8% of the eligible voters for baseball's Hall of Fame.

One who didn't vote for him was Corky Simpson, a retired Tucson Citizen sports columnist who now writes for the weekly News and Sun of Green Valley, Ariz.

Simpson was ripped hard and often in the cyberworld.

One example quoted by the Columbia Journalism Review was posted on the News and Sun website by reader Reeds Johnson, who wanted to know if Simpson was "stupid or just senile.''

Perhaps, in this one case, the former, Simpson later acknowledged, apologizing to the Oakland Tribune for not voting for Henderson.

But he apparently doesn't care much for the medium used by many of his critics.

"I think of the literature on the Internet in the same way that I think of the literature on the walls of public bathrooms,'' he told Megan Garber of the Columbia Journalism Review. "With the exception that the literature on the walls of public bathrooms is a little higher class.''

Read more on our LATimes blogs. (Kidding, Corky. You've suffered enough.)

Trivia time

Henderson is one of five Hall of Famers to have played for the Dodgers and Angels. Who are the others?

A vote for Big Mac

Mark McGwire fell short of the 75% of votes required for the Hall of Fame for the third consecutive time, receiving less support this year than the previous two. Of the 21.9% of the ballots on which he was named, one was cast by Yahoo Sports' Gordon Edes.

Edes, who didn't vote for McGwire before, said he can't distinguish which players were and weren't using performance-enhancing substances during the so-called Steroid Era.

"I can have my suspicions, many of them compelling,'' he wrote, ''but outside of David Eckstein, there are few players I would name with 100 percent certainty as being pure.''

He didn't say whether he would vote for Eckstein when he becomes eligible.

What critics hear

Norman Chad, who writes a column for the Washington Post, lost a bet to ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd over how many games the Cleveland Browns would win (Chad said more than eight).

As a result, he had to let Cowherd write part of his column.

Chad, however, couldn't resist a parting shot at Cowherd, quoting him "verbatim'' from his radio show last Thursday.

"Blah blah blah blah Pete Carroll walks on water. Blah blah blah blah BCS. Blah blah blah blah Bob Stoops is Sponge Bob Bowl Flop. Blah blah blah blah BCS.''

Trivia answer

Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson, Don Sutton and Hoyt Wilhelm.

And finally

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer was arrested in the early-morning hours Sunday for public intoxication and disturbing the peace in Indianapolis ... at the Have a Nice Day Cafe.

-- Randy Harvey

Photo: In 1999, Rickey Henderson was with the Mets doing what he did best. Credit: Ezra O. Shaw / Allsport

Totally Random

Namath_300There are accomplishments by their NFL predecessors in Baltimore that the Ravens are eager to embrace, such as celebrations of the 1958 NFL championship game. Other moments, well ...

Today is the 40th anniversary of the New York Jets' upset of the Colts om Super Bowl III. It passes almost without mention in Baltimore, though the game Joe Namath "guaranteed" the Jets would win was worthy of a series of articles in the New York Daily News.

John Fox, longtime Daily News writer, said he sensed the significance of the game "in the middle of the third quarter, when it appeared likely that the Jets would win, there was total silence among the NFL writers in the press box."

The game proved the AFL worthy of a merger with the NFL, enlarged the Super Bowl and forever left Baltimore fans bitter.

Speculating before this season's playoffs about who would be the best opponent for the Ravens, the Jets or Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore Sun's Ken Murray wrote, "Baltimore still owes the Jets."

Basically, the only anniversary less likely to be celebrated in Baltimore is Robert Irsay's acquisition of the Colts, which will reach its 40th year in 2012.

Trivia time

If it's the 40th anniversary of Super Bowl III, then it's also been 40 years since the "Heidi Bowl." So who played "Heidi" in the TV movie that interrupted the Oakland Raiders' wild finish against the Jets in 1968?

Time capsule

Some numbers from Super Bowl III ...

Point spread: Baltimore by 19.

Cost per commercial: $55,000.

Winners' share: $15,000.

Geez, 15 grand? That wouldn't keep Pacman Jones in attorney retainers.

Cardinal sin

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith, asked whether the team wants respect after beating the Carolina Panthers, told the Arizona Republic, "No. Don't nobody believe in the Arizona Cardinals but the Cardinals fans. We love being the underdogs. Best place to be."

Mongo from "Blazing Saddles" couldn't have said it better.

Trivia answer

Jennifer Edwards, daughter of Blake Edwards, director of the original "The Pink Panther."

And finally

Jones, sent "pac-ing" by the Dallas Cowboys, went on CBS' NFL pregame show and announced that he was ready to play next season, adding, "I think I might be back in Dallas."

The cheer you heard comes from New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles fans.

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Jets quarterback Joe Namath gets off a pass before Colts defensive end Bubba Smith can block it in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969. The 19-point underdog Jets won, 16-7. Credit: Associated Press

Totally Random

For Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme, the road to this weekend’s NFC divisional playoff game between Arizona and Carolina ran through Amsterdam.

Ten years ago, Warner and Delhomme were teammates on the Amsterdam Admirals of the now-defunct NFL Europe. Warner arrived as a veteran of three Arena Football League seasons, viewing the Europe experience as a last chance to catch on with an NFL team. Delhomme came in after a season spent on the New Orleans Saints practice squad.

"Jake had the stronger arm, he moved better, could make the big throws and big plays a lot better than I could," Warner told the Associated Press. "All I was hoping, no offense to Jake, was that he would make a few more mistakes than me so that the coaches would give me a chance."

Warner wound up winning the starting job and leading the league in passing yardages, earning him his NFL shot. A year later, Warner would be NFL most valuable player while leading the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl. Delhomme’s NFL crossover would take longer, but by 2003, he too would be starting in the Super Bowl.

And now they meet again in Saturday’s playoff game. "Only in America can that happen," said Al Luginbill, the former Amsterdam coach.

Trivia time

When did NFL Europe debut?

A sorry sight
 
This hasn’t been the best January in Joe Paterno’s long life.

First, his Penn State football team gets trounced in the Rose Bowl. Then, his statue outside Beaver Stadium gets defaced by vandals, who actually cut the bronze glasses off the face of the statue last weekend.

Penn State plans to replace the glasses, though it initially was unclear to school officials how much that might cost. Either that, or the real JoePa gets fitted for contact lenses.

Paying the price

It is a traditional hazing ritual in professional sports: Veteran players ordering rookies to perform menial tasks, like carrying luggage to the team bus or bringing food to practice.

Evidently, Sacramento Kings rookie Jason Thompson had been remiss in bringing bagels and cream cheese to practice -- and wound up paying for it. Recently after practice, he walked to the parking lot and found his Escalade filled with popcorn -- front seat, back seat, even the glove compartment.

To borrow a phrase, that is not the way to be faked into the popcorn machine. 

Trivia answer

NFL Europe began in 1991 as the World League of American Football, with 10 teams competing in the United States and Europe. After two seasons and a two-year hiatus, the league returned in 1995 as a six-team, all-European venture known as NFL Europe.

And finally
 
Texas football coach Mack Brown, to the Dallas Morning News, on one consequence of having 68 teams qualify for bowl games this college postseason: "It is an exciting time. I see 7-5 teams throwing Gatorade on their coach.

"At Texas if we were 7-5 they would be throwing something on me, but it wouldn't be Gatorade, I will tell you that."

-- Mike Penner

Totally Random

The traditional congratulatory phone call from the president comes after a major championship has been won. And what happens after a coach ends a 21-game conference losing streak?

If you’re Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson, you get a phone call from the president-elect.

Barack Obama phoned Robinson, his brother-in-law, after Robinson’s team defeated USC, 62-58, in overtime last weekend. "I figured this would be the one time he didn’t call, but sure enough," Robinson told the Associated Press. "My family always calls, but he calls on the bigger games, so this was pretty big."

Oregon State’s last Pac-10 victory came against Washington on Feb. 22, 2007, which was shortly after Obama announced his candidacy for president. It took the Beavers an entire presidential campaign, and election, and a coaching change before they won again.

Trivia time

When did Oregon State last win at least a share of the Pac-10 regular-season basketball championship?

Wife knew best

Now it can be told: Mark Teixeira’s decision where to sign for next season came down to a call by his wife, Leigh.

At a Tuesday news conference to introduce him to the New York media, Teixeira  said, "The whole process was confusing. Sometimes I'd tell [agent] Scott [Boras] to stop calling me, then I'd call him five times a day saying, 'Tell me what you know!' Two weeks before Christmas, I talked to Leigh about it again, and we kind of decided that, hey, the Yankees are where we want to be.

"Cash [Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman] might want to give Leigh a hug, because when I asked her during the process, 'Where should I go, where should I go?' she'd always say, 'I just want you to be happy.' Finally she said, 'I want you to be a Yankee,' and it was a done deal. Once we got the contract figured out, it was a no-brainer for me."

Metal detector needed

January 24 is the 15th anniversary of the lead-pipe attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. And how will Tonya Harding mark the occasion?

By participating in the Mixed Martial Arts Extreme Cage Fight War program at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Harding has tried her hand at boxing before, but according to the Detroit News, it could not be confirmed if this was her first venture into extreme boxing. And as the News noted, the rules do not allow lead pipes inside the cage.

Trivia answer

In 1989-90, Oregon State shared the conference title with Arizona.

And finally

From David Letterman’s top 10 signs you're watching too much football:
• Only fresh air you've had this month is opening door for pizza guy.
• You refer to orange juice as "FedEx orange juice."
• You schedule an appointment to talk to your doctor about Andy Reid's cholesterol.
• Three words: Norv Turner tattoo.

-- Mike Penner

Totally Random

Sergio Garcia Sergio Garcia did not win any of his four matches at last year’s Ryder Cup, but that’s not the reason he gives for Europe losing to the United States.

Instead, he blames the small locker room, the playing of the national anthems and his cold relationship with Padraig Harrington.

"The U.S. team played their cards well," Garcia told the Mirror. "They knew where the pins were going to be and the tees and we didn't. The locker room we had was really, really small and uncomfortable. I wish it had been even half the size of theirs. We had two showers, one next to a toilet. At the opening ceremony they played my anthem twice, once when the Spanish flag was raised and once when the Swedish flag was raised."

As for Harrington, he said, "He is not my best friend. It'd probably not be good for us to be paired together."

Trivia time

How many times has Harrington played in the Ryder Cup?

The hits keep on comin'

The postseason criticism of Brett Favre continues, raining down from unusual places. Now, even boxing trainer Teddy Atlas has joined the chorus.

Atlas, a friend of former New York Jets Coach Eric Mangini, told the New York Post, "I think Brett Favre basically is a selfish guy. Brett Favre goes out there with his gray hair, his Wranglers and gets up when he gets hit. I understand why people like that. But there’s another side. He’s a selfish guy."

Overpriced Shaq

How real estate mimics real life, or at least NBA life:

Shaquille O’Neal has put his Miami Beach estate up for sale, with a price tag of $25 million, according to the New York Post. That sounds like a lot, but over the last two years, the price has gone the way of O’Neal free-throw percentage. In November 2007, the 19,000-square foot home cost was priced at $35 million.

Built in 1992 by former Miami Heat center Rony Seikaly, the house has eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. The property, which sits on 2.5 acres of land, also features a tennis court and a two-bedroom guesthouse.

Don’t cry for O’Neal, though. He will still make a sizable profit, having purchased the house in 2004 for $18.8 million.

Trivia answer

Four.

And finally

David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, putting George Karl's 900th NBA coaching victory in perspective: "When Karl picked up his first win in 1984, Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony was 6 months old."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Sergio Garcia, reacting to a shot he made in a golf tournament in Spain in october. Credit: Paul White / Associated Press

Totally Random

Millen_300_2Detroit Lions fans watching NBC’s "Football Night in America" coverage over the weekend didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when the team's former general manager, Matt Millen, was interviewed by Dan Patrick.

"Would you have fired you?" Patrick asked Millen (pictured at right while serving as a referee in a preseason game in 2000).

"I would have, actually,” Millen replied.

Lions fans wondered why Millen wasn’t so proactive when he was employed by the team.

"Probably not this year," Millen added, "until after the season."

Lions fans say that’s one thing the team got right this season.

Trivia time

How many Super Bowl rings did Millen win as a player?

Audio hazard

Important medical note to all golfers: Some doctors in England say the noise made by titanium clubs could be hazardous to your health.

According to a story in the Daily Mail, the noise generated by a titanium club when striking a golf ball approximates a gun shot or "a sonic boom" and can damage a golfer’s hearing. Some doctors have advised golfers to wear earplugs while playing, but professional golfer Andrew Coltart found at least one problem with that.

"If you are wearing earplugs you might not hear shouts of 'fore,' be hit by a ball on the head and get brain damage," Coltart said.

Ringing endorsement

Dikembe Mutombo owns several cellphones, using different ones for basketball contacts, friends and celebrities. Before being lured out of retirement by the Houston Rockets, the 42-year-old center said he was tempted to turn them all off because he was being pestered by Yao Ming to return.

"He has so many cellphones," Yao told the Houston Chronicle. "But I know every one.

"He couldn't turn them all off."

Trivia answer

Four. Two with the Raiders, one with the San Francisco 49ers and one with the Washington Redskins.

And finally

Asked by Sporting News to fill in the blanks to a few half-sentences, Chicago Bulls and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf handled one response this way:

If I were king for a day, I'd ... ''Send Don Fehr [head of the baseball players association] to Siberia.''

-- Mike Penner

Photo credit: Jim Rogash / Associated Press

Totally Random

Peterson_300Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (shown at right rushing for a touchdown Sunday afternoon) was full of bravado during an interview with the NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk that aired Sunday morning.

Peterson, on whether one guy can tackle him: "If they get lucky."

On what goes through his mind before the snap: "I'm thinking about touchdowns."

On his career: "I definitely want to have a couple of Super Bowl rings and be the best player that ever played the game."

On the Vikings’ playoff hopes: "I feel like we have what it takes to win it all."

Said Faulk: "He's a very confident young man."

Perhaps too much so. Sunday, Peterson and the Vikings lost at home to the Philadelphia Eagles, 26-14.

Trivia time

Who replaced Bud Grant as Vikings coach after the 1983 season?

So easy a . . .

Tired of watching his players miss layups a child could make, Texas Tech basketball Coach Pat Knight invited a young boy from the stands to join the team in a huddle.

Knight asked the boy if he could make layups. The boy said that he could.

"I was just tired of having 18- or 21-year-olds miss layups that a 12-year-old could hit," Knight said, "so I brought a 12-year-old in to let them know that he could hit layups. He's 12 and he can hit layups, so why can't you when you're 18 to 21?"

Sensory overload

The makers of the soccer video game Football Manager 2009 are giving away, of all things, a bottle of aftershave with copies of the game.

The aftershave, called "Scent of Success," is said to be made of the scents of the locker room -- grass, sweat, shoe leather and heat spray.

Miles Jacobson, spokesman for the game’s manufacturer, Sports Interactive, said, "Our scent will bring the dressing room into the homes of Football Manager 2009 players, inspiring them for pre-match team talks, preparing them to direct their team from the sidelines and prime them for a tricky press conference."

Well, of course, the tricky press conference always requires a sweat-scented aftershave.

Trivia answer

Les Steckel.

And finally

Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press, putting the Detroit Red Wings' 6-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field into perspective: "The Wings have now won more games outdoors this season than the Lions have."

-- Mike Penner

Photo credit: Craig Lassig / European Pressphoto Agency

Totally Random

Beckham_500

Photos of an evidently out-of-shape David Beckham appear on the Daily Mail website, along with the headline: "Mind how you go old man . . . David Beckham left gasping for breath after rigorous training session with AC Milan."

One photo shows Beckham (appearing OK above doing crunches), sporting a new tattoo on his inner left arm, bent over leaning against a chain-link fence and having his pulse taken by a concerned-looking team trainer. Beckham was in Dubai with his new Milan teammates preparing for a friendly match against the German club Hamburg SV on Tuesday.

The Mail reported that "after every 30-second bout of rigorous exercise he had to stop to recuperate." The newspaper also quoted team doctor Jean-Pierre Meerseeman, who said earlier in the week that Beckham, 33, could play another five or six years -- that his basic fitness was excellent, "all he needs to do now is alter his training program slightly."

Beckham expected a more intense experience once he left the Galaxy for a loan trial with Milan. But that was in reference to the matches, not the practice sessions.

Trivia time

Who is the godfather to Beckham's sons Brooklyn and Romeo?

He, himself and him

Nominated for NFL teammate of the year: Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee.

McGahee, who rushed for only 671 yards during an injury-plagued regular season, told reporters this week, "My season is over. [Since] Week 5, I haven't done anything at all. It's not like I'm going to get 1,000 yards, so I'm just playing my role."

And: "Yeah, it's over. It's not like the season I normally have, so it's over for me. That's how I look at it."

It's not over for the Ravens, who went 9-2 down the stretch and have a wild-card game Sunday against Miami. If McGahee's season is over, he needs to inform Ravens officials. The team's current depth chart has McGahee starting at running back.

Floating an idea

Singapore hasn’t exactly run out of land, but that didn’t stop city planners in the new Marina Bay development from building a soccer field in the bay -- a soccer field that floats on water.

Onshore sits a 30,000-seat viewing section, but the field itself rests on the water, accessible by three ramps that lead to the stadium. The field is said to be sturdy enough to support 9,000 people and three military tanks, tanks of course being essential to the sport of on-the-water soccer.

Still unclear is what will be done about all the soccer balls sure to be kicked into the bay.

Trivia answer

Elton John.

And finally

Notre Dame basketball Coach Mike Brey, to the Chicago Tribune, comparing the Irish's second-round opponent in the Maui Invitational with their second-game opponent during an August tour of Ireland: "Texas ain't Poland."

-- Mike Penner

Photo credit: Patrick Castillo / Getty Images

Totally Random

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was probably just thinking out loud when he said it, but he made Internet headlines when he mused that he could make a lot of money if he changed his last name to "World of Warcraft," after his favorite video game.

Kluwe is host of a talk show on Minneapolis radio station 93X and recently told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Back when Chad Johnson changed his name to Ocho Cinco, I told the guys at 93X that I was going to change my name to Chris 'World of Warcraft.' They said that's too long. So they started calling me Chris 'Warcraft.' I could make a lot of money if I changed my name to that."

Kluwe never said he was serious about the name change, only that he was serious about video gaming.

"I think more people like to hear me talk about playing video games than football," Kluwe said. "I've played video games since I was 4 years old. I play them a lot more than I kick a football. I kick the ball about 45 minutes a day. I play video games about five or six hours a day. But that's OK. I don't watch TV."

Trivia time

Who holds the Vikings' franchise record for career gross punting average?

Disfavor with Favre

How much damage did Brett Favre do to his reputation by coming out of retirement to become quarterback of the New York Jets for the 2008 season?

Listen to Jets running back Thomas Jones during an interview with New York radio station WQHT-FM.

"We're a team and we win together ... but at the same time, you can't turn the ball over and expect to win," Jones said. "The other day [in a season-ending loss to Miami], the three interceptions really hurt us. I mean, that's just reality. If I were to sit here and say, 'Oh, man, it's OK,' that's not reality.

"The reality is, you throw interceptions, I'm [ticked] off, I don't like it. You know what I'm saying? I don't like it, I know everybody else on the team doesn't like it."

Meanwhile, an anonymous Jets player told Newsday, "There was a lot of resentment in the room about him. He never socialized with us, never went to dinner with anyone."

This is what happens when you win one of five games in December.


Trivia answer

Kluwe, with 44.5 yards a punt.

And finally

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: "The Washington Generals plan to file suit against the (4-29) Oklahoma City Thunder, claiming copyright infringement."

-- Mike Penner

Totally Random

Pryce_500

When certain members of the Baltimore Ravens say they’re busy watching film important to their careers, they are not necessarily referring to video clips of an upcoming opponent.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs has formed a film production company and defensive end Trevor Pryce has sold a script to Sony Pictures, which has plans to turn it into a movie in late 2009. Pryce told the Baltimore Sun he found his inspiration while walking through a shopping mall with his young daughter Khary, who gazed down at the pennies sitting at the bottom of a fountain and wondered what would happen if the pennies got mixed up and you got the wrong wish.

Pryce took that idea and several rewrites later had a marketable script for a children’s movie.

Pryce calls himself "a real tough movie critic. I've walked out of 30% of the movies I've ever gone to. I like something that will keep my attention. The more you begin to understand how movies are made, the less willing you are to sit through a bad film. If I didn't know what goes into writing a screenplay, I probably wouldn't have walked out of those films. But because I do know what's coming next, it's like: 'I'm just not enjoying this.' "

Trivia time

Who was the first player to score for the Ravens during their initial season (1996) in Baltimore?

Low budget

When mayors of cities with sports teams engage in the silliness of betting on the outcome of an upcoming game, "friendly wager" is often synonymous with cheap.

Such is the case with this week’s Indianapolis-San Diego AFC wild-card game. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders is wagering a six-pack of Karl Strauss Amber Lager and a Rubio’s Pesky combination plate of two fish tacos, chips and beans. Total cost: Less than $20.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard responded by putting up a shrimp cocktail from St. Elmo Steakhouse. Total cost: $14.95.

"We’re betting low to start off," Sanders said, jokingly adding that, "if I had a little bit more time, I think I could have got him a weekend at [the Marine Corps Recruit Depot]."

Plotting their allegiance

Following a curious trend -- sports teams wanting to provide their supporters with the ultimate fan club, of sorts -- German soccer club Borussia Dortmund has gone into the cemetery business.

Dortmund is calling the project "After the Final Whistle" and is offering fans the chance to choose from burial sites. Dortmund’s league rival Hamburg already has its own supporters’ cemetery, but Dortmund says its site is open to fans of all clubs.

"It is an ecumenical project as regards to football -- everyone is welcome," said Ulrich Heynen, manager of Dortmund's cemetery.

Trivia answer

Vinny Testaverde.

And finally

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald, on reports that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had proposed to supermodel Gisele Bündchen: "Cannot confirm she had to tell poor Tom she'd already said yes to Matt Cassel."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Baltimore's Trevor Pryce (90) and Jarret Johnson (95) sack Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb during a game Nov. 23. Credit: James Lang / US Presswire

Totally Random

Setting a record that will never be broken, David Pratt, a striker for the English soccer club Chippenham Town, was red-carded three seconds into a match against Bashley last week.

How it that possible? The ball was kicked off, Pratt lunged at a Bashley player and the referee blew his whistle and raised a red card, citing Pratt for a dangerous tackle.

That is how a new world’s record is set.

"The world record is not a big deal for me,” Pratt told Sky News. “It’s not something that I'm proud of."

Previously, the English record for quickest red card was 13 seconds, set in 2000 by Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kevin Pressman, for handling a shot outside of the box.

Trivia time

Before Pratt, what was the world record for the fastest ejection in a soccer match?

Take that!

Another soccer ejection that made headlines in England recently was the red card Stoke’s Ricardo Fuller received for hitting another player -- his own captain.

Stoke held a 1-0 lead over West Ham before West Ham’s Carlton Cole beat Stoke’s Andy Griffin for the equalizer. Incensed, Fuller approached Griffin and slapped him in the face. Fuller was sent off and Stoke, playing short-handed, eventually lost the match, 2-1.

Stoke Coach Tony Pulis said Griffin was playing with an injured knee, filling in at a position where the team lacked depth.

"We've got a good group of players who care about things,” Pulis told the BBC, "and Ricardo Fuller cared too much.”

He's kidding, right?

Former Chicago Cubs reliever Turk Wendell was asked by sportingnews.com to fill in the blank for '''When the Cubs win the World Series, I'll ...'' and his answer was: ''Be 99 years old.''

Commented Elliott Harris of the Chicago Sun-Times: “Wendell is 41. And a joker. And, some might say (given the franchise's track record), also an optimist.”

Trivia answer

In a 1990 Italian League match, Bologna’s Giuseppe Lorenzo was dismissed after 10 seconds for hitting an opponent.

And finally

From Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “If you’re keeping score at home, I believe the Yankees have just signed  CC Sabathia,  Mark Teixeira,  LeBron James,  Adrian Peterson,  Tim Tebow, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the  Jonas Brothers.”

-- Mike Penner

Totally Random

Chargers fans celebrate after San Diego beat the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday.

In Detroit, they are firing coaches. In Denver, they are running newspaper polls asking fans if the Broncos just completed the worst collapse in sports history.

That’s quite a claim. The Broncos lost their last three games to squander a three-game lead over the San Diego Chargers and miss the playoffs. Thus, they became the first team since the NFL began divisional play in 1967 to blow a three-game lead with three games remaining.

But the worst collapse of all time? What about, just to name one, the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, who famously squandered a 6 ½-game lead with 12 games left?

Broncos fans weren’t hearing any of it. By midday Monday, a Denver Post online poll showed 66% of respondents voting the Broncos as the worst ever. The 1964 Phillies pulled in only 9.7%.

Trivia time

With three interceptions in Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre finished the season with 22. What is the Jets’ record for most interceptions thrown in a single season?

Communications breakdown

The Jets entered Sunday’s home game needing Jacksonville to defeat Baltimore to have a shot at a wild card. Early, with Jacksonville holding a 7-3 lead, the Giants Stadium message boards kept fans appraised of the action. But after Baltimore took the lead, en route to a 27-7 victory, the discouraging news was removed from the message board. No more Jaguars-Ravens updates.

No news is good news?

What the Jets didn’t know still hurt them. Baltimore clinched the last AFC wild card and the Jets finished 9-7, two games behind the Dolphins.

Empty Pro Bowl?

The NFL’s decision to move next year’s Pro Bowl to Miami and hold it a week before the Super Bowl is curious, to say the least.

The league has long sought a way to remove the Pro Bowl’s sense of anticlimax, but scheduling it before the Super Bowl eliminates players still in contention for the league championship. And what’s a Pro Bowl without the best players from the best teams?

Then again, many Pro Bowl players who participate in the Super Bowl suddenly develop “injuries” that rule them out of the all-star game, so perhaps the point is moot.

Trivia answer

Al Dorow, in 1961, and Richard Todd, in 1980, both threw 30 interceptions.

And finally

From David Thomas of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Winter weather is causing problems for the NFL. In the past week alone, we saw a $10,000 snowball and a $10,000 snow angel.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Chargers fans celebrate after San Diego beat the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Robert Benson / US PRESSWIRE

Totally Random

Thunder_500

What is the strangest name ever for a college bowl game?

The website FanIQ.com lists a few contenders:

The Bacardi Bowl: A reference to the famous Cuban rum, this bowl was played seven times in Havana, Cuba. In the last Bacardi Bowl, held in 1946, Southern Mississippi defeated Havana University, 55-0.

The Refrigerator Bowl: The game was played annually in Evansville, Ind., from 1948-1956, when Evansville was known as the "Refrigerator Capital of the World."

The Salad Bowl: A short run for this bowl, only five years. It was played at Montgomery Stadium in Phoenix from 1948-1952. In the inaugural Salad Bowl, Nevada defeated North Texas State Teachers College, 13-6.

Including corporate sponsors’ names, however, it is difficult to top the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl.

Trivia time

Which was the only NFL team to complete the 2008 preseason undefeated?

Sleeping well in Seattle

With the Oklahoma City Thunder on pace for the worst regular-season record in NBA history, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News wonders if all the effort expended to relocate the franchise from Seattle was worth it.

"The back-biting, the legal wrangling, the hue and cry, the trek across the Continental Divide — it was all for this?" Finger wrote.

"A team that has gone 3-26, fired its coach and shown no signs of escaping the depths of the Western Conference anytime soon?

"At least Seattle got something for Christmas, and it's called karma."

Golf etiquette

Some golf-related quotes of the year, as compiled by Bob Frisk of the Chicago Daily Herald:

Steve Elkington, 44, winless since 1999, on why he is playing more: "My son, who is 11, asked me where I bought all my trophies."

Mike Greenberg of ESPN Radio, on whether Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson is a rivalry: "No. Not unless you consider a hammer and a nail a rivalry."

Champions Tour golfer Joey Sindelar, on his short game struggles: "I think the only way I can explain it to my sons, who are 18 and 15, is that my scoring software has a virus."

Trivia answer

The Detroit Lions.

And finally

After the Toronto Raptors lost to Oklahoma City, 91-83, Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun wrote: "If this isn't rock bottom, it's going to take a visit to the D-League to beat it."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors absorbed a painful loss to Joe Smith, left, Desmond Mason and the woeful Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 19. Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

Totally Random

A Dec. 28, 1959 file photo shows Baltimore Colts fullback Alan Ameche scoring the winning touchdown in overtime against the New York Giants.

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of "The Greatest Game Ever Played" -- the Baltimore Colts' 23-17 overtime victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship game.

How long ago is 50 years?

To put it into perspective, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran a list of off-season jobs held by players and coaches who participated in that game.

To supplement his NFL salary, Colts defensive tackle Art Donovan worked as a liquor salesman in the spring and summer. Teammate Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb was a greeter at a brewery and a professional wrestler. Colts running back Lenny Moore worked in community relations with National Brewing Co. -- and was a Saturday disc jockey for WSID radio in Baltimore.

Two assistant coaches with the Giants, eventually bound for the Hall of Fame as head coaches, had to make ends meet in 1958. So Giants defensive coordinator Tom Landry worked as an insurance salesman. And an offensive coordinator named Vince Lombardi worked in public relations for a bank.

Trivia time

What was the winner's share for the Colts in the 1958 championship game?

Sammy redux?

For those major league teams looking in the market for a power-hitting outfielder but looking for a cheaper alternative than Manny Ramirez, there's always ... Sammy Sosa?

Sosa, who turned 40 on Nov. 12, didn't play last season, but he told the Associated Press that he didn't consider himself retired and that he would like to play for the Dominican Republic this coming March in the World Baseball Classic.

"I still don't have an offer, and I shouldn't be looking for offers out there," Sosa said. "Any team who wants to sign me should have the initiative and make an offer."

Sosa last played for the Texas Rangers in 2007, when he had 21 home runs and 92 RBIs in 114 games.

Some time to think

American Todd Carmichael recently walked solo 700 miles across Antarctica from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole in 39 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes, averaging about 18 miles a day. His time broke the existing record by nearly two hours.

After such a feat, what could possibly be Carmichael's next challenge?

"He's had a lot of time out there by himself to think," his wife, Lauren Hart, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Too much time to think. He'll come up with something."

Trivia answer

Each Colts player received $4,718.77.

And finally

St. John's (Minn.) football coach John Gagliardi, 82, to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, about his job security: "The monks give me a lifetime contract because they figure I can't last much longer. But there's a clause in there that if we start losing games, they can give me the last sacraments and declare me dead."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: A Dec. 28, 1958, file photo shows Baltimore Colts fullback Alan Ameche advancing through a big opening to score the winning touchdown in overtime against the New York Giants during the NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium in New York. Credit: Associated Press

Totally Random

Jack Nicholson, right, shouts past Celtics coach Doc Rivers during Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals at Staples Center.

The Boston Celtics clearly reside on the "naughty list" as far as the NBA scheduling czar is concerned. "They told me we were playing on Christmas Day and I didn't really look at it, I just assumed it was at home," Coach Doc Rivers told reporters on Tuesday.

The Celtics have never played a home game on Christmas Day -- but have gone 19-15 on the road and at neutral sites. It's enough to warrant a "what's up" from Doc.

Said Rivers: "One of the things I did before the season, the league has the coaches send in rules suggestions, I said one of the packages of winning the title is you should get the ring, the trophy, and a guaranteed home date on Christmas Day."

Put it in a letter to Santa.

Trivia time

When was the last time the Lakers and Celtics played on Christmas Day?

Cry me a Rivers

Of course, Rivers would never dream of using the NBA schedule as a motivational tool for a game that needs no coach-speak gimmicks ... or windmills to tilt at  ... or ...

"I'm sure arena availability probably had something to do with it," Rivers told the Boston Globe. "It's not just they wanted to play it in L.A., but as a coach, I'll make it that way."

... nevermind.

Pittsburgh Grinches

In Philadelphia, they boo Santa Claus. But in Pittsburgh, they ban him.

Bill DiFabio, a Pennsylvania sports announcer, did his annual Christmas bit this week, dressing up as Santa Claus for a Pittsburgh Steelers news conference. It's a light-hearted tradition that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher always accepted. Coach Mike Tomlin quickly tired of the bit.

After several minutes, DeFabio asked Tomlin to pass him a football. "If that will get you out of here," said Tomlin, who then went on with his critical analysis of the 11-4 Steelers' finale against the 4-11 Cleveland Browns.

Later on, the Steelers announced that Santa was no longer welcome at their news conferences.

No word whether Tomlin was visited by three ghosts.

Trivia answer

In 1970, the Lakers handled the Celtics' Big Three that day (John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Don Nelson) in a 123-113 victory.

And finally

Headline on the website Fark.com: "Angels GM says team has no interest in Manny Ramirez. That leaves Bingo Long's Traveling All-Stars, The King and His Court, and the lowballing Dodgers as interested parties."

-- Chris Foster

Photo: : Jack Nicholson, right, shouts past Celtics Coach Doc Rivers during Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals at Staples Center. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty Images

Totally Random

Jerry Tarkanian

Guys used to get a good bounce from being the Long Beach State men's basketball coach.

Jerry Tarkanian (1968-73) went to UNLV and won a national title. Lute Olson (1973-74) did the same at Arizona. Tex Winter (1978-83) taught the triangle offense to Phil Jackson.

Then there is Wayne Morgan, who is making sure inmates can watch "Days of Our Lives." Morgan, fired as Iowa State's coach in 2006, now owns Mid-Iowa Satellite and has been hired by Iowa State ... the Iowa state pen, that is.

Morgan's business won the contract to switch television sets from analog to digital at two state prisons. That might seem less thrilling than beating Minnesota in the NCAA tournament, but both accomplishments seem to make Morgan tingle.

"We're happy and overjoyed to win a game in this great tournament," Morgan said after beating the Gophers in 2005. And today? "We are happy to do this, and we are excited about it," Morgan told the Des Moines Register about the prison deal.

Trivia time

Who did Olson's 24-2 Long Beach State team play in the NCAA tournament during his one season as coach?

Ice, ice baby

Hockey purists beware. Synthetic ice could be coming to a Canadian city near you, according to the Canwest News Service.

"The advantage of plastic is there's no maintenance, no refrigeration needed, no chemicals or ice-cleaning machine, so the energy costs are zero," Francois Bilodeau, president of Montreal-based Glace Synthetique du Canada Inc., told the news service.

Wait, no "ice-cleaning machine"? How will future generations ever understand that "Zamboni Song"?

Wake up the echoes?

The last time Notre Dame won a bowl game, Joe Paterno, Penn State's 82-year-old coach, was a whippersnapper, just barely eligible for Social Security benefits. After nine consecutive bowl defeats, the Irish are hoping for eggnog rather than egg-on-face when they play Hawaii today in the Hawaii Bowl.

Since the Irish beat Texas A&M in the 1994 Cotton Bowl, 89 of the 119 Division I schools have won a bowl game. Tailback Armondo Allen had this to say about ending that nine-game streak: "That's is something we always talk about, starting a new trend. And we can start it right here in Hawaii."

Hawaii? A trend? Really? Some where Knute Rockne must be shaking his head.

Trivia answer

No one. The 49ers were on probation, a parting gift from their former coach, Tarkanian.

And finally

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler on the New York Yankees signing pitcher CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161-million contract: "In other news, the Yankees signed Prince and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to provide live pre-game music in the clubhouse."

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Fresno State Coach Jerry Tarkanian chews on a towel as he watches his team play during a 1998 tournament. Credit: Jack Smith / Associated Press

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Police escort Todd Kobus of Attleboro, Mass. from the field after he ran onto the field and tackled New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau during the Patriots' game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Making do with outdated things has been the Kings way of doing business in the past (see Jeremy Roenick, for example). But General Manager Dean Lombardi has a method to his madness this time.

Lombardi retains the same furniture in his office as was there the day he was hired in 2006, vowing to hold off on the interior decorating until the Kings win the Stanley Cup.

"I have the ghosts of past general managers in there with me," Lombardi said.

That merely could be the lingering aroma of a Rogie Vachon cigar, or the stench from the number of first round draft picks Larry Regan and Jake Milford dealt away during the the first decade (nine in all). Lombardi, though, cites this as an small example of how he's trying to change the Kings culture.

As for the furniture, Las Vegas is expected to post an over-and-under on the number of times the couch has to be reupholstered before Lombardi can replace it.

Trivia time

Who was the Kings first No. 1 pick to actually play for the Kings?

Patriot Act violation?

Things have gotten so bad for the New England Patriots that they are being attacked ... by their own fans ... during games.

Such was the case Sunday, when linebacker Junior Seau was tackled by a fan during the fourth quarter of a 47-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

"As old as I am, I couldn't anticipate it,"  Seau said after the game. "He blindsided me. It was an unassisted tackle, whoever he is. We rolled around and said 'Merry Christmas.' "

Patriots' cornerback Ellis Hobbs told the Boston Herald that tackling Seau, "That's a death wish, man."

Todd Kobus, the fan who tackled Seau, is a member of the National Guard who served in Iraq as an intelligence specialist.

Holiday bowling

Tier three celebrities will always have a home as long as there are tier-two bowl games.

First David Hasselhoff sang the National Anthem at the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl -- his last big las Vegas appearance included a lot of alcohol, his daughter with a video recorder and a messy hamburger. Now comes word that the Village People will perform during the Sun Bowl halftime show.

A group featuring a Redskin, a Cowboy and a police officer? Sounds more like Plaxico Burress' season.

Trivia answer

Jay Wells, who was taken in the first round in 1979 (12 years after the Kings joined the NHL) and was in the lineup the following season.

And finally

Police swooped in earlier this month after former NBA player Corie Blount accepted a package containing 11 pounds of marijuana. "Or as he's now known in the evidence room, Corie Blunt," noted the Seattle Times' Dwight Perry.

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Police escort Todd Kobus of Attleboro, Mass., off the field after he ran onto the field and tackled New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau during the Patriots' game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Credit: Matthew West / Boston Globe / Associated Press

Totally Random

Bowlstuff_500

The tradition and honor of playing in a college football bowl game are intangibles, but the freebies and the swag that come a player’s way are very real rewards.

FoxSports.com recently compared the giveaways offered by 20 different bowl games, and payouts do differ. The Rose Bowl ranked among the middle of the pack, giving each player a Sony DVD camcorder, a commemorative Fossil watch, Ogio backpack, New Era 59Fifty fitted hat, plaque, autograph football and one-year subscription to ESPN The Magazine.

The national championship game gives out a high-end gift (up to $300 worth of Sony electronics) and a low-end (customized luggage tags) and an assortment in between (watch, duffel bag, BCS championship game customized Crocs).

Coming out on the light end is the Gator Bowl, which hands out Oakley electronic sunglasses, a Bulova watch and a cap.

Trivia time

What did the Chick-fil-A Bowl used to be called?

It adds up

Nathan Cleverly, the Commonwealth light-heavyweight boxing champion, owns a degree in mathematics. He recently told BBC Sport, "Sometimes I go to bed dreaming about my next fight and wake up thinking about my next equation."

He can't dig it

From Reggie Hayes of the News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind.:

"Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Bryant was upset by comments about him that were made by ESPN's Emmitt Smith and Trent Dilfer. 'I can put on a suit just like you and get on TV and talk just like you,' Bryant said, calling out the pair.

"The NFL had no reaction, but I think it's overdue for the league to take seriously the threat of another player turning into an analyst. Before long, the professional journalists will be out of a job, and then who'll be around to make up nicknames using dated 1970s references?"

Trivia answer

The Peach Bowl.

And finally

Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard talked to MLB.com about meeting Donald Trump at a recent taping of "Costas Now" for HBO.

"It was different to be in his presence," Howard said. "I think when [he] was breathing, a thousand bucks came out."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: No, the cheetah and its companion golden retriever at the San Diego Zoo are not part of the swag that Texas Christian players got to keep during their trip to the Poinsettia Bowl. They were on a tour of the zoo. Credit: Chris Park / Associated Press

Totally Random

The Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal shoots a free throw against the Seattle SuperSonics on April 15, 2002.

As Shaquille O'Neal closes in on a rarefied career milestone -- 5,000 missed free throws -- John Hollinger of ESPN.com attempted to place that feat in its proper historical context.

Hollinger noted that only one man in NBA history has missed more free throws -- Wilt Chamberlain, with 5,805 -- and that you could assemble an impressive all-time all-star team from players who did not even attempt 5,000 free throws in their careers:

Point guard: Walt Frazier (4,226 attempts).
Shooting guard: Scottie Pippen (4,437).
Small forward: Larry Bird (4,471).
Power forward: Kevin McHale (4,554).
Center: George Mikan (3,924).

Only 68 players in the combined NBA-ABA history have attempted as many as 5,000 foul shots. Dikembe Mutumbo played 17 seasons and fell 51 attempts short.

Trivia time

Which NBA player with a minimum of 1,200 attempts has the worst free-throw percentage?

Pull over, spud

As a concept, the movable couch potato has been ruled illegal outside Cleveland Browns Stadium.

For three seasons, Browns fan Mike Meredith has driven the Go-Kouch, a combination couch and riding lawn mower, around the stadium parking lot, transporting friends from one tailgate party to another. At a recent game, however, a police officer ticketed Meredith for driving an unregistered vehicle and having expired plates.

On Tuesday, a Cleveland Municipal Court judge found Meredith guilty and sentenced him to 10 hours of community service.

"I thought I had a chance for victory," Meredith told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He upheld the law. I don't blame him."

All of the above?

Multiple-choice question from Chris Ferrell of the San Antonio Express-News:

The Dallas Cowboys have offered evidence over the past few weeks that:

a) They have a very dysfunctional locker room.

b) The team seems as likely to win the Super Bowl as miss the playoffs altogether.

c) Wade Phillips is going to be a heck of a defensive coordinator for some team next season.

Trivia answer

Ben Wallace, at 41.9%.

And finally

Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh, who died Wednesday at age 94, once had this to say about the estimated $300,000 he made in the NFL from 1937 to 1952: "Half went to taxes. The other half went to Texas."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Then-Laker Shaquille O'Neal shoots a free throw against the Seattle SuperSonics on April 15, 2002. O'Neal made 9 of 11 that night on his way to a game-high 41 points in the Lakers' 111-104 win. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press

Totally Random

Workers construct an outdoor ice rink for the NHL Winter Classic to be played on Jan. 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Fans planning to attend the Winter Classic outdoor hockey game at Wrigley Field on Jan. 1 will want to carefully check the seating chart for the best view.

“The upper deck will probably be the best seats,” Chicago Cubs chairman Crane Kenney told the Associated Press. “The bleachers, as well, but it’s the world turned upside down. Being down right next to the field, you’ll have a little difficulty with the boards.”

The Winter Classic will pair the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. Earlier this week, the ice-making equipment arrived at the field and an all-time Blackhawks great hitched a brief ride inside the refrigeration trailer.

“I wish I could have played in one of these,” Bobby Hull told reporters, thinking wistfully about the Jan. 1 game. “A 19-to-20-degree day with snowflakes falling would be perfect.”

Trivia time

What is the NHL record for the biggest crowd to witness a regular-season game?

A deadly kick

Argentine soccer player Gaston Aguirre joined an unwanted list when a ball he kicked landed in a group of pigeons situated in the corner of the field.

A burst of feathers ensued and the pigeons flew away -- except one.

“I kicked the ball and, poor pigeon,” Aguirre, a defender for the club team San Lorenzo, told the Associated Press. “Now I will be remembered as the pigeon killer.”

Aguirre hit the bird during the 2-1 victory against Tigre in a three-team round-robin for the Argentine league championship. Several players surrounded the wounded bird as it tried to fly away, but the bird collapsed. Eventually, referee Saul Laverni scooped up the dead pigeon and placed it off the field.

Aguirre joins Dave Winfield and Randy Johnson as athletes who have killed birds during competition. In 1983, Winfield, then a New York Yankees outfielder, killed a seagull with a warmup throw during a game in Toronto. In 2001, Johnson was pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a spring training game when one of his pitches struck a dove.

Winfield was charged with animal cruelty, but the charge was eventually dropped.

Rose-colored glasses?

Fallout from this latest lost Cleveland Browns season includes wide receiver Braylon Edwards complains how fans in Ohio never cut the former University of Michigan star any breaks.

"I'm not Paul Warfield, Webster Slaughter or Jim Brown," Edwards said told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I've given my all to this city for four years, and I realize it will never be enough. I went to the Pro Bowl last year and resurrected this team from the darkness, and nobody cared."

Edwards’ comments raise a quick question: The Browns were resurrected from the darkness?

Trivia answer

The first Winter Classic, held last year at the Buffalo Bills’ Ralph Wilson Stadium, drew a league record 72,217 fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the host Buffalo Sabres, 2-1, in a shootout.

And finally

From Mark Kriegel of FoxSports.com: “No one’s talking about the human cost of the canceled Arena League season. It’s so bad there’s word that Philadelphia Soul owner Jon Bon Jovi might even go back on tour.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Workers construct an outdoor ice rink for the NHL Winter Classic to be played on Jan. 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Totally Random

London Fletcher closes in on Browns running back Jerome Harrison.

Another Pro Bowl snub was enough to set off Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, who called himself “the Susan Lucci of the NFL” for being again overlooked despite owning a career he described as “Hall of Fame worthy.”

"I don't know if it was because I wasn't a first-round draft pick, I don't do some kind of dance when I make a 10-yard tackle, I don't go out and get arrested," Fletcher told reporters. "I

Read on »

Totally Random

Tropicana Field

Squeezing a football field inside Tropicana Field, the domed home of the Tampa Bay Rays, posed an issue that needed investigating during the run-up to the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl between the University of South Florida and Memphis:

Could a football possibly hit one of the four circular catwalks that hang above the playing field?

The St. Petersburg Times dispatched a reporter and enlisted a punter, former South Florida goalkeeper and semi-pro kicker Mike Pepper, to see if any of the concentric rings were reachable.

Pepper was able to hit only the D ring, which never crosses the field of play. The ball then ricocheted off the restaurant in centerfield and bounced into the tank in right-centerfield where fans can touch live cownose rays.

Conclusion: Saturday’s game ought to be obstruction-free.

Trivia time

Which punter bounced a football off the television screen suspended above the Superdome field during the 1976 Pro Bowl?

Flip-flops don't fly

President Bush was talking with the Washington Post about the 2005 White House visit of Northwestern’s national champion women’s lacrosse team, which was marked by players arriving in flip-flops.

''I thought it was cool!” he said.  “Look, I'm the father of young girls -- now professional women. But I thought it was great; it didn't bother me in the least. When you're president, you get used to all kinds of characters.''

Better still, none of the players took off their flip-flops to fling them at the president.

Mission impossible?

Michael Phelps wants to star in his own video game, but what can you do with swimming? Back and forth in the pool, back and forth, game over in a matter of seconds. What then?

Adam Kline, president of 505 Games, the company releasing the video, told the Baltimore Sun that "Swimming will be a part of it, but it won't be set in an Olympic pool going back and forth . . . This is a pure action game.”

Although dangerous, it is presumed that action won’t include hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

Trivia answer

Ray Guy of the Oakland Raiders.

And finally

From Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Now Terrell Owens is beefing that Tony Romo and Jason Witten, on the road, don't invite him to their pillow fights."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Tropicana Field's dome. Credit: Chris O'Meara / Associated Press

Totally Random

Detroit Lions safety Dwight Smith rides off the field in a cart during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Colts in Indianapolis.

As the losses have piled up for the Detroit Lions, fans have had to adjust their expectations.

Rather than offering discounts for a Lions victory, an oil-change business in nearby Jenison, Mich., is offering oil changes for $9 if the Lions hold a lead at any time during a game.

No discounts this week. The Lions never led in a 31-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, dropping Detroit’s record this season to 0-14.

Trivia time

Besides the Lions and the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has any NFL team started a regular season 0-14?

Home-field advantage

What’s in a name? The University of Alabama is hoping opponents visiting Bryant-Denny Stadium find inspiration next season when they walk into the visitors' locker room, newly named “The Fail Room.”

Actually, the locker room received its new designation when a rich alumnus named James M. Fail made a donation to the Crimson Tide Foundation.

Upon hearing the news, Detroit Lions officials bristled, complaining that they didn’t patent the name unofficially given to their team’s home locker room.

The inactive active list

No at-bats in 2008 and no contract offers notwithstanding, Barry Bonds insists he’s an active player.

“I’m not retiring. I’m not retiring,” Bonds told a cameraman for the website TMZ.com while waiting for his car outside a Los Angeles restaurant Saturday night.

While in a relatively loquacious mood, Bonds was asked about Manny Ramirez.

“I hope Manny stays,” Bonds said. “Manny’s great for L.A.”

Trivia answer

Yes. In 1980, the New Orleans Saints lost their first 14 games, then split their last two to finish 1-15.

And finally

From Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: "All Todd Bertuzzi wants for Christmas are his six front teeth."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Detroit Lions safety Dwight Smith rides off the field in a cart during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Colts in Indianapolis. Credit: Michael Conroy / Associated Press

Totally Random

Packers fans celebrate

It sounds like a punch line too good to be true, but a beer vendor has been voted into the Green Bay Packers Fan Hall of Fame.

Allan Hale became the 11th member of the hall, and he had to work to get there. Hale, 70, has been hawking beer at Lambeau Field since the Lombardi years, making his debut in 1963. He landed the job when he was approached by a vendor while looking for a ticket to a game. Hale told the Associated Press that he made $8.05 the first game and never stopped.

Hale was nominated by a friend who often sits in Section 119, where Hale has worked for 46 seasons.

As a hall member, Hale receives the following perks: four club tickets to the Packers' home finale on Dec. 28, a $500 gift certificate and a road trip for two to a 2009 Packers away game.

Trivia time

Who coached the Packers for the longest time?

Bunning benched

Forty-five years after he last pitched for the Detroit Tigers, Jim Bunning finds himself knocked out of the box again.

Bunning, a member of the baseball Hall of Fame and a Republican senator from Kentucky, was supposed to appear at a sports card show today at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Taylor, Mich. But after he voted against an auto industry loan package in the Senate on Thursday, Bunning's invitation was revoked. Owner Jim Koester said he couldn't support someone who voted against Michigan's financial well-being.

And now Bunning's financial well-being takes a hit. Fans were to have paid Bunning $55 to sign a bat and $35 to autograph a baseball.

What a racket

Jaden Agassi, the 7-year-old son of tennis greats Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, was a terror on his coach-pitch baseball team this fall, with Dad literally lending a hand and doing the pitching.

"We went undefeated and he had 53 at-bats and 50 hits for a .943 average," Andre told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "You can argue I was finding the sweet spot for him, but nevertheless it worked. And I lived and died with every swing."

Golf by osmosis?

Charles Barkley, whose golf swing has all the artistry of a blown dunk, is the feature of a new show soon to debut on the Golf Channel, "Project Barkley With Hank Haney." The premise: Can lessons with Tiger Woods' coach possibly help Barkley's golf game?

Kenny Smith, Barkley's TNT studio partner, is dubious. Says Smith: "Kwame Brown played for Phil Jackson ... it didn't work."

Trivia answer

Earl "Curly" Lambeau coached the Packers for 29 seasons, 1921-1949.

And finally

Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel, on the news that Charlie Weis would return as Notre Dame football coach next season: "The news was greeted by great enthusiasm on campus. Unfortunately, the campus was in Southern California."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: A fan raises a beer bottle to salute Green Bay Packers tight end Donald Lee after a touchdown pass. Credit: Morry Gash / Associated Press

Totally Random

Barry Melrose

Barry Melrose doesn’t officially return as an analyst to ESPN until Jan. 1, but in the interim, the Barry and Barrie Show continues to provide steady entertainment.

Melrose and Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner Len Barrie continue to take shots at one another in the wake of Melrose’s firing as Lightning coach.

Barrie told the St. Petersburg Times, “My thing is you’re paid to do a job, and he didn’t do it from day one. How he came in and prepared for this job was total negligence.”

Melrose has complained of interference from upper management. To that charge, Barrie told XM Radio, “I told Barry Melrose about five or six things in the whole eight weeks I was there and he didn't listen to one. Maybe Barry should have listened every once in a while because he lost the team fast. Go ask the players, don't sit here and ask me."

Melrose, to Toronto radio station The Fan 590: “I hope Tampa Bay doesn’t win a game in the next year.”

Trivia time

Who was the first head coach of the Lightning?

No-so-jolly Santa

Wearing a Cowboys-customized Santa cap and a blinking red nose at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility on Tuesday, Terrell Owens was in a holiday mood. He said he wanted to give former Cowboys and current ESPN commentators Emmitt Smith and Keyshawn Johnson a gift -- their own television program.

“Those two need their own show -- Dumb and Dumber,” Owens told reporters.

Owens described Smith as a hypocrite for calling the Cowboys a bunch of individuals, not a team, then leaving a message on Greg Ellis’ cell phone to pass onto the team. Owens also repeated an old charge-- that Johnson remains bitter about Owens taking his place on the Cowboys’ roster.

"Obviously, this guy is still really jealous of me," T.O. said, "because I'm here and this guy is in the booth talking about me and the Cowboys."

The Daly down under

Six years after melting down at the Australian PGA -- throwing his putter and golf ball into a pond, failing to sign his scorecard to disqualify himself in 2002 -- John Daly has returned to Australia with a smash.

En route to an opening round six-over-par 78 at the Australian Open in Sydney, Daly lost his temper again and after the completion of his round grabbed a spectator’s camera and smashed it against a tree. Then he reportedly told the fan, “You want it back, I’ll buy you a new one.”

Daly released a statement via tournament organizers saying the fan, Brad Clegg, got too close.

“I was looking to take a drop and a camera was 6 inches away from my face. If I was 10 under, I would have felt the same,” Daly said. “My eyes are still burning from the flash of the camera.

“I feel it was very rude to put a camera that close to somebody’s face in any situation. The guy that had the camera had already taken a dozen shots at close range.”

Asked if he would seek compensation, Clegg told the Australian Associated Press: “I don’t think I’ll be chasing him for the money. He’s a big bloke!”

Trivia answer

Terry Crisp coached the Lightning to a 23-54-7 record in the Lightning’s expansion season of 1992-93.

And finally

From Dan Daly of the Washington Times on Sean Avery: “In addition to serving a six-game suspension for being a lout, Avery agreed to see an anger management counselor. Good thing Gary Bettman doesn’t make every miscreant do that. The NHL would turn into ‘Holiday on Ice.’”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Barry Melrose. Credit: Mike Carlson / Associated Press

Totally Random

Graham Harrell In the state of Texas, where lawmakers are drawing up a bill pushing to end the BCS, it’s difficult to find someone in favor of the current college football postseason format. But not impossible.

Sam Harrell, father of Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell (seen at left), told the New York Times that he would rather college football avoid any form of playoff.

"Now I know people say how much it works for basketball, but I think football is different," the elder Harrell said. "Is it really better for kids to have a playoff ,or go to a bowl game and say, 'We won the Gator Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, whatever bowl'? You have USC and Penn State going to the Rose Bowl, whoever wins that game -- that’s something those kids can talk about the rest of their lives. They finished by winning something with a name, a tradition. They got to play in the Rose Bowl, not just the quarterfinals.

"People would have you believe, oh, the playoff would be perfect, ideal, but I think in about six years, people would say, 'Oh my God, what have we done? We’ve ruined a perfectly good season’s ending for a whole lot of teams for the benefit of one.' Is that really better for the kids?"

Trivia time

When did Texas Tech play in its first Cotton Bowl?

Fists fly

And now, for what the New York Mets’ acquisition of former Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez really means: Who has the best fist-pump in the Big Apple -- Rodriguez or New York Yankees’ pitcher Joba Chamberlain?

As a headline in Wednesday’s New York Post put it: "Rodriguez, Joba Create Great Gesticulate Debate." The Post also informed Mets fans of one change to expect when attending home games in 2009: "Say bye-bye to 'Enter Sandman' playing in the ninth inning, and get used to K-Rod’s entrance music, 'Sandungueoso,' by Tego Calderon."

And, this would be another change for the Mets and their fans: Maybe Rodriguez records some saves down the stretch. The Mets are spending $37 million with that hope in mind. 

A winning list

Brady HokeAmong the top 10 highlights of Ball State's 12-1 football season, as read by coach Brady Hoke (seen at right) on alumnus David Letterman's show:

• "When O.J. Simpson and some goons showed up and tried to steal our equipment."
• "Defeating the Detroit Lions."
• "None of our players shot themselves in the leg."
• "The drunk 3 a.m. coaching tips from Letterman."

Trivia answer

Texas Tech played in the third Cotton Bowl, on Jan. 2, 1939, and lost to St. Mary’s, 20-13.

And finally ...

Elliott Harris of the Chicago Sun-Times on this year’s Alamo Bowl pairing: "A Northwestern-Missouri matchup would seem better suited for a battle of journalism schools than of football teams."

-- Mike Penner

Top photo: Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell during a game last month. Credit: LM Otero / Associated Press

Lower photo: Ball State Coach Brady Hoke. Credit: Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Totally Random

Raiders fans

What do Oakland Raiders fans eat during home games?

The stereotype includes steel nails and raw, just-sacrificed animal flesh, but according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Raiders fans are served the second-most vegetarian-friendly stadium food in the NFL.

PETA praised the Raiders for a menu that includes veggie dogs, veggie burgers, baked potatoes, peanuts, popcorn and pretzels.

"Raiders fans have enough to worry about -- they don't need to be thinking about the clogged arteries and cruelty to animals that come with eating meat," PETA Assistant Director Dan Shannon said in a news release. "The best way that fans can tackle their health problems and score some points for animals at the same time is to give these great vegetarian options a try."

San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium topped the list, perhaps predictably. But surprising runners-up included Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field at No. 3 and Green Bay’s Lambeau Field -- supposed home of bratwurstmania -- at No. 5.

Trivia time

When did the franchise now known as the Arizona Cardinals last win an NFL championship?

Watch out, Romeo

Romeo Crennel is still employed as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, through you’d never have guessed it by listening to Marty Schottenheimer being interviewed on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday.

Schottenheimer talked about the possibility of returning to the Browns as general manager if Bill Cowher were hired as head coach.

"That would be very interesting for a couple of reasons," Schottenheimer said on "The Sirius Blitz." "You know, Bill and I have remained very, very close friends throughout our NFL careers, and it goes back to when he was a player [for the Browns] and I was an assistant. I would be less than candid if I didn't say that that is, at the very least, intriguing. But there are so many movable parts there it would be like a Rubik's Cube."

And nobody has pried the Rubik’s Cube from Crennel’s fingers, yet.

The invisible man

During his Monday new conference, Detroit Lions Coach Rod Marinelli was asked about his unrelenting optimism in the face of an 0-13 season, and if he sees something in his team that others are missing.

"It's the invisible, I guess,” Marinelli said. “No, that's what I'm saying. I believe in the invisible. I do. I think you go out and you have faith in what you do. If you don't have it, you're nothing.”

This Sunday, the Lions play the 9-4 Colts, winners of their last six games, in Indianapolis. The Lions’ chances of winning that one, to borrow a phrase, would appear to be invisible.

Trivia answer

In 1947, the Chicago Cardinals won the NFL championship.

And finally

Florida Gators Coach Urban Meyer, speaking to the Tampa Tribune, on the BCS computers, which had Florida ranked third behind Oklahoma and Texas: “I kept hearing about the computer. The way I know about computers is you push ‘on’ and sign on the Internet every once in a while and do a spread sheet every once in a while. Other than that, I don’t know what goes into it.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Oakland Raiders fans tailgate before a Nov. 30 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Credit: Kirby Lee / Image of Sport - US PRESSWIRE

Totally Random

Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware, bottom, lies on the ground as teammates Anthony Henry (42), Ken Hamlin (26) and Jay Ratliff (90) check on him.

At 8-5 and in second place in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys are in position to clinch a wild card playoff berth -- making them disappointments in the mind of one of the greatest Cowboys of them all, Emmitt Smith.

Calling the Cowboys “mediocre,” Smith told the Dallas Morning News, “I saw this team being a lot better than it is. Chemistry has a lot to do with it. And for some reason, the chemistry of the Cowboys has been thrown off a little bit.

"Either there’s too much salt in the gumbo or not enough meat in the gumbo. Something’s wrong. Whatever it is, they need to get it corrected. It’s just been kind of a ‘blah’ season for me.”

Trivia time

How many consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons did Smith have during his NFL career?

This guy takes the cake

Add food metaphors: Home-field advantage in the NFL isn’t what it used to be, and here is what Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said about the success road teams have had in the league this season:

“Some guys love playing away, like myself. . . . It’s like going in somebody’s house and taking their cake off the table and they’re sitting right there looking at you and there’s nothing they can do.”

A rookie mistake

After 33 years without winning a division title, the Arizona Cardinals weren’t sure how to act Sunday when they finally broke that streak with a 34-10 triumph over the St. Louis Rams.

“My coach was like, 'Act like you’ve been there before, act like you’ve been there before,' " Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett told the Associated Press. “I said, ‘Coach, I ain’t been there before; I don’t know how to act right now.' ”

Dockett was born in 1981 -- six years after the Cardinals last won a division championship.
 
Trivia answer

Eleven.
 
And finally

Not one for understatement, or prudent statement, disgruntled New York Knick Stephon Marbury described his current predicament this way:

"I got shot in the head by my own guys in the foxhole. And they didn't even give me an honorable death."

Reflecting on Marbury’s remarks, David Thomas of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote: "Shooting. Foxhole. Honorable death. Sports was so much simpler when we only threw people under a bus."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware, bottom, lies on the ground as teammates Anthony Henry (42), Ken Hamlin (26) and Jay Ratliff (90) check on him during a Nov. 27 game against the Seattle Seahawks in Irving, Texas. Credit: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

Totally Random

Random_300The Seattle Mariners have a new-look braintrust. Jack Zduriencik was named general manager in October and in November he hired Don Wakamatsu as manager (pictured together at right).

Writes Dwight Perry in The Seattle Times: “Sure, the Mariners’ rookie manager-GM combination ranks last in on-the-job experience, but Wakamatsu-Zduriencik has no equal on a Scrabble board.

“ As in 44 points, 26 by the Z-man alone.”

Trivia time

Who was the Seattle Mariners’ first manager?

Dog-gone energetic

The secret behind the offseason training regime of Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton? He lets the dogs out.

Hamilton has two pit bulls and told USA Today he stays in shape by running with them.

“If you let dogs outside after they’ve been in the house all day, the first thing they want to do is take off,” Hamilton said. “So I get out of the house and take off with them and run till they quit. And if you know anything about dogs, they don’t quit for a long time.”

Rockin' around the sports world

Lorne Chan of the San Antonio Express-News writes that there are a few things sports could learn from rock n' roll.

BCS concept: “The right rock band almost always wins a battle of the bands, especially when it’s a playoff format.”

NFL ties: “Rockers have no trouble playing an encore, especially when playing in front of 65,000.”

Baseball rainouts: “Most rock shows happen rain or shine, unlike the World Series. Woodstock didn’t have a 48-hour rain delay.”

Record run

Charles Barkley recently assessed the Lakers’ chances of equaling the Chicago Bulls’ single-season record of 72 victories.

''It's going to be really close,” he told Chicago radio station WMVP-AM. “It just depends on if they have the best record wrapped up. It's just a matter how they want to finish up. I think they will have the home court throughout the playoffs wrapped up before they get to 70. I think they'll take the foot off the pedal.''

Trivia answer

Darrell Johnson, who managed the Mariners to a 64-98 record in their expansion season of 1977.

And finally

Herm Edwards, coach of the 2-11 Kansas City Chiefs, on whether he’s a candidate for the job at San Diego State: “I’ve got a college team right now.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images

Totally Random

The Buffalo Bills

It didn’t involve an overseas flight to London, but, on Sunday, the NFL goes international again when the Buffalo Bills play the Miami Dolphins in Toronto.

This is technically a home game for the Bills, but fans in Buffalo are fearful the team is testing the waters for a potential move to the nearby Canadian city.

Bills owner Ralph Wilson told USA Today that the game, which attaches North America’s No. 5 media market to one of the NFL’s smallest, “is one step in keeping the team” in Buffalo.

One Bills follower, Rich Keaton, compared the logic to telling your wife you’ll spend six days a week with her and the seventh with a richer woman in Toronto and that “honey, this is good for our marriage.”

Trivia time

How many regular-season NFL games have been played outside the United States?

Backfields in motion

Wilson likes to point out that of the original eight American Football League franchises, only the Bills and Denver Broncos have not moved in some form. The Chargers began life in Los Angeles in 1960, then moved to San Diego the next season.

The Raiders have bounced from Oakland to Los Angeles then back to Oakland.

The Kansas City Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans.

The Tennessee Titans were originally the Houston Oilers.

The New York Jets were originally known as the Titans and played their home games in New York. Today, they share a stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., with the Giants.

The New England Patriots, originally the Boston Patriots, moved their home games from Boston to Foxborough in 1971.

Firing line

For Barry Melrose, a 16-game stint as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning amounted to little more than a short sabbatical from his analyst’s gig at ESPN. Shortly after being dismissed by the Lightning, Melrose agreed to return to ESPN; he'll resume his analyst duties on Jan. 1.

“I look forward to analyzing people being fired rather than being the guy fired,” he said.

Drop this, Braylon

From reader Sanford Aaronson of Los Angeles: “Braylon Edwards, the wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, has dropped [more than] 16 balls thrown to him this season.  I think that an appropriate honor for him, and one that he is experienced in, would be to go to New York City on New Year's Eve and drop the ball there.”

Trivia answer

Three. The NFL played regular-season games in Mexico City in 2005 and London in 2007 and 2008.

And finally

From ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel: " 'Britney Spears' were the most-searched words of the year on Yahoo!, followed by 'World Wrestling Federation,' and in third place, 'Barack Obama.'

"I think the lesson here is that Americans are not responsible enough to be using computers."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Buffalo Bills backup quarterback J.P. Losman (7) might be polling the offense to see who wants to enter the witness protection program and move to Toronto. Credit: Luc Leclerc / US Presswire

Totally Random

A plane with a banner that reads,

Banner-toting rental planes have become the latest weapons in the Red River Shoot Your Mouth Off.

Thursday morning, an orange plane was spotted circling the University of Texas campus with a banner that read, "Hey Mack, Quit Your Whining U Knew The Rules."

The message is a reference to Texas football coach MAck Brown complaining about the Big 12 tiebreaker rules that determined Oklahoma, not Texas, would advance to this Saturday’s conference championship game against Missouri. Earlier this season, Texas defeated Oklahoma on a neutral field, 45-35.

That score helped ignite the aerial duel. Earlier, Texas fans rented a plane to fly over Stillwater, Okla., while the Sooners were playing Oklahoma State. The banner behind the plane read, simply, "45-35."
 
Trivia time

After compiling an 11-0 record en route to the national championship in 1974, Oklahoma played in which bowl game?
 
Air power

Tim Tebow was the object of a full-on recruiting war between Alabama and Florida three years ago, with Alabama the early favorite, considering Tebow’s strong relationship with David Shula, then the Crimson Tide head coach.

Florida Coach Urban Meyer told the Orlando Sentinel that he recalled a recruiting trip conversation with his defensive coordinator at the time, Greg Mattison, while sitting in a plane on a freezing tarmac. "He said, 'You realize if we don't get Tim [Tebow], that will set the program back 10 years,'" said Meyer. "I said, 'Shut up.' He said, '10 years.' I got so upset with him, I grabbed a blanket and didn't talk to him the rest of the trip."

Tebow agreed to attend Florida in December 2005, and the courses of two big-time football programs were altered. Shula was fired after the following season, replaced by Nick Saban. Florida won the national championship with Tebow in 2006, then Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007. And now Tebow and Saban have their teams in the SEC championship game, one team four quarters away from the BCS title game.

Group MVP?

During a NFL season where no player stands out as an obvious most valuable player, Mike Lombardi proposes giving the award to a bunch of them.

"I cannot think of a group that has dominated as much as the Giants’ [offensive] line," Lombardi, a former NFL personnel executive told the New York Times via e-mail. "Tennessee dominates the defensive line because of Albert Haynesworth, but the Giants' offensive line is the sum of their parts."

Given the unlikelihood the 50 award voters can name all the Giants' offensive linemen, let alone vote for them as a unit, Lombardi was asked for an individual selection. Again, his choice was unconventional.

"Matt Ryan," he said, referring to the Atlanta Falcons' rookie quarterback. "He has done more for that team than any other player in the NFL, and they would not be 8-4 if he was not there."

Trivia answer

None. The Sooners were on probation for a recruiting violation and were not allowed to participate in a bowl game that year.
   
And finally         
   
After a round of tryouts held to upgrade Green Bay’s erratic punting game, what was Packers Coach Mike McCarthy’s modest request of new punter Jeremy Kapinos?

"I want him to punt the ball in the right direction," McCarthy said.

-- Mike Penner

Photo: A plane with a banner that reads, "Hey Mack, Quit Whining U Knew The Rules" buzzes around the campus of the University of Texas on Thursday. Credit: Rodolfo Gonzalez / Associated Press

Totally Random

Mountaineer quarterback Pat White

On the other coast, two football rivals have agreed to abandon traditional uniform color schemes when they play this Saturday -- with no talk of timeouts, only a Whiteout.

In honor of senior quarterback Pat White’s final home game, West Virginia will wear its white road jerseys when it hosts South Florida. West Virginia made the request and South Florida agreed to wear its home uniforms on the road for this game. That means in addition to a “Whiteout” in the stands, White will be surrounded by white jerseys in the huddle.

West Virginia Coach Bill Stewart praised South Florida Athletic Director Doug Woolard and Coach Jim Leavitt for agreeing to the uniform change.

"What a gentlemanly gesture by those two men and the South Florida Bulls,'' Stewart said. "They will always be remembered in the Mountaineer nation for a class act.''

Trivia time

The last time USC and UCLA both wore their home jerseys in their annual football game was 1982. Which school won the game that year?

Sleep on it?

Not trying to exploit Plaxico Burress’ misfortune or anything, bed manufacturer Hollandia International has renamed its Safe-T Bed “The Plax Bed,” which features a heavy-duty safe built into the bed and a hefty price tag: $20,000.

A publicity e-mail notes that “Plaxico could have ‘safely’ slept through the night and had a ‘safe’ place to keep his treasured artillery,” adding that Hollandia “originally developed the bed for the international customer who wanted to keep a handgun safely stored yet close to him for security purposes. However, the company realized that U.S. customers, such as Plaxico, may need the bed as well.”

But as the e-mail suggests, all of this unpleasantness could have been avoided if only Burress had stayed in bed.

There's still time

For those golfers searching for the elusive secret of the hole-in-one, Max Herman offers this: Turn 90.

Herman, of Encino, aced the seventh hole on the West Course at Braemar Country Club in Tarzana on Wednesday -- at the age of 94. It is the third hole-in-one Herman has scored since turning 90.

“I didn’t start playing until I was 75,” Herman said. “I never took a lesson in my life. I take no pills. I take no vitamins. I just enjoy playing.”

Another Cleveland joke!

From Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Poor Cavaliers fans having to hear all this talk about LeBron James maybe going to the Knicks when he becomes a free agent in 2010. Like it’s not bad enough just having to live in Cleveland!”

Trivia answer

UCLA won, 20-19.

And finally

From Gary Loewen of the Toronto Sun, suggesting a trade for the Maple Leafs: "Reacquire center Bob Wren and put him on a line with new winger Lee Stempniak. Introducing Wren and Stempy."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Quarterback Pat White is shown wearing West Virginia's traditional home uniform during an Oct. 4 game against Rutgers at Mountaineer Field. Credit: Noah K. Murray / The Star-Ledger / US PRESSWIRE

Totally Random

Ryan Leaf

Writer-director Tim Carr calls it a documentary within a movie, but San Diego Chargers fans will no doubt describe it as a horror film. It’s an 82-minute film about Ryan Leaf, and it’s being screened tonight at the San Diego Library.

Perhaps anticipating the reaction in San Diego, Carr is screening the film for free.

"I insisted it be free for all the Chargers fans because it's their story," Carr told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I was like, 'Chargers fans have been through enough -- let them have this.' "

Carr, who plays Leaf in the film, is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans who said, “I put myself in the San Diego fans’ spot so many times because I’m a huge sports fan and I love my team like San Diego loves their team. I think when they see it, they might get on me for maybe taking it easy on him, although I assure you I didn't -- we throw everything in -- but the way we kind of left it was so people can kind of make their mind up: Maybe he redeemed himself; maybe he moved beyond this.”

Carr won’t be at the screening. Right now he’s re-editing the ending to include Leaf’s resignation last month from his job as an assistant football coach at West Texas A&M. “That kills my redemption ending,” Carr said.

Trivia time

Peyton Manning and Leaf were the top two selections in the 1998 NFL draft. Who was chosen third?

Ouch, part I

The political comedy website 236.com on Monday listed "plaxident" as its “Word of the Day.” Plaxident, inspired by the act of New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress' accidentally shooting himself in the thigh, is a noun that is defined as “An act of stupidity that costs you $35 million.”

Ouch, part 2

Burress’ plaxident prompted the cbs46.com website to list a few bizarre injuries suffered by other athletes. Here is a sampling:

Kim Clijsters: The former top-ranked women's tennis player injured her tail bone after tripping over her dog while playing soccer.

Sam Torrance: The Scottish golfer had a sleepwalking problem and during the 1993 Ryder Cup left his bed to tackle a tree he mistook for an intruder. Torrance suffered a broken toe in the process.

Joel Zumaya: The Detroit Tigers relief pitcher sustained inflammation in his arm, causing him to miss three games of the 2006 American League Championship Series, because of playing too much of the video game “Guitar Hero.”

Paper or plastic?

Old habits die hard, former grocery store employee Kurt Warner said on “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.”

“I go to the grocery store and still want to bag my own groceries,” Warner said. “I still think I can do it better than anyone else in the grocery store. And definitely, the eggs always go separate.”

Trivia answer

Florida State defensive end Andre Wadsworth, by the Arizona Cardinals.

And finally

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun, on the Tampa Bay Lightning's promotion of Rick Tocchet to coach: “He’s said to be an intense, demanding, no-nonsense guy. Oh, and he runs a hell of an NFL office pool.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf, now the former quarterbacks coach at West Texas A&M University, is shown at work during an Aug. 15, 2006 practice in Amarillo, Texas. Credit: Henry Bargas / Amarillo Globe-News / Associated Press Photo

Totally Random

Rickey Henderson

Although it seemed as if he’d never stay retired long enough to make it possible, Rickey Henderson made the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, it was announced Monday.

In honor of the occasion, we present a few of Henderson’s most memorable quotes from during his career, courtesy the Website NYsportSpace.com:

During a contract holdout with Oakland in the early 1990s: “If they want to pay me like Mike Gallego, I’ll play like Gallego.”

On the phone message left for San Diego Padres General Manager Kevin Towers: “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”

When searching for a seat on the Padres team bus and being told by Steve Finley, “You have tenure, sit wherever you want,” Henderson replied: “Ten years? Rickey’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.”

Telling New York Yankees teammates that his condo had such a great view he could see the “Entire State Building.”

And when a reporter asked Henderson if Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50% of big league players were taking steroids was accurate, Henderson replied: “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49% right there.”

Trivia time

How many teams did Henderson play for during his 25-year career?

Oden gets busted

Greg Oden has played 12 NBA games, started four of them, and already one blogger for ESPN The Magazine’s Website has declared the Portland Trailblazer center to be a failure.

“Greg Oden is a bust,” wrote rapper Lil’ Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. “He’s gotta show me something, man. I don’t get it. At what point in time was he dominant? I’ve never seen it. You’ve never seen it.

“Maybe NBA officials know something we don’t. That’s all I can figure. Maybe somebody on that staff has seen something we haven’t. But until he shows me something, I’m gonna declare him a bust.”

Is everyone here?

A record crowd of 25,629 attended this year’s Montana-Montana State football game -- about 2.7% of the state’s population.

“When Montanans get that many people packed into a relatively small area,” Pat Ryan wrote in the Montana Standard, “it’s usually known as ‘The Opening Day of Hunting Season.' "

Trivia answer

Nine. The New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Angels, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Dodgers and four stops with the Oakland A’s.

And finally

Utah’s Louie Sakoda, a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to college football’s best kicker, recently discussed his craft with the Deseret News. “Your job is to kick leather,” he said. “It’s kind of a cheesy job.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: New York Mets coach Rickey Henderson smiles in a July 21, 2007 file photo. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

Totally Random

Bosh_500

You know what they say about Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh: You can’t stop him, but you can keep him contained in an elevator in his Toronto condo for nearly an hour.

Bosh had 30 points and 10 rebounds Friday night in the Raptors’ 93-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, but earlier in the day, he spent 50 minutes stuck inside an elevator in his condo just after he got on at the 28th floor.

''I sat and reflected on life and just chilled,'' Bosh told the Associated Press, adding that he tried to force the door open, but failed.

"I tried my superhuman strength, but it wasn't opening," he said.

Trivia time

Bosh was the fourth player selected in the 2003 NBA draft. Who was chosen ahead of him?

Food fight

Holiday eating advice by the Washington Redskins team nutritionist did not have a 100% completion rate.

The nutritionist recommended avoiding "butter/cream drenched mashed potatoes" and "fried anything!" and suggested "keeping a food log during this time of year has been proven to reduce weight gain."

Offensive lineman Randy Thomas, who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 317 pounds, wasn’t buying into the program.

"Look, I don’t live by that," he said. "I live to be happy. I eat fried chicken. You’re going to tell me that’s living dangerously?"

Rough ride

Willie Anderson was prepared to spend his entire NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals, then ride off into the sunset on an all-terrain vehicle, just like the one the Bengals gave 13-year center Rich Braham for his retirement in 2006.

Instead, the Bengals told Anderson during the offseason to take a pay cut to remain with the team as a backup. After 12 years of good service to the Bengals, Anderson chose instead to sign with the Baltimore Ravens, who defeated the Bengals, 34-3, on Sunday.

"We all know there is no love in the game, but you think that they like me and I do the right things, I say the right things and I play well when I do play," Anderson said during a conference call earlier in the week. "I was like, 'They’re going to allow me to retire here and maybe get my Richie Braham tractor.'

"I was looking forward to that. I was like, 'Man, Richie got a tractor.' "

Trivia answer

LeBron James, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony.

And finally

Eric Hahn of Omaha, Neb., set a world record for Mohawks when his reached 27 inches above his scalp.

"The way my year's going," wrote Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald, "I'll find out my season ticket for Creighton basketball is directly behind this guy."

--Mike Penner

Photo: Raptors forward Chris Bosh passes over Atlanta's Ryan Hollins during their game Friday night. Credit: Nathan Denette / Canadian Press

Totally Random

Bulldoghaven_300Where do old Georgia Bulldogs go when they die?

Some will go to “Bulldog Haven,” a cemetery plot near Georgia’s football stadium devoted exclusively to Georgia football lettermen and their families.

The plot will include a wall that looks like stadium steps, a small-scale version of a football field, a small chapel bell and the trademark hedges that line the field inside the big stadium across the street.

So far, more than 100 spots have been sold to former Georgia players and their families at $1,500 apiece. The Georgia Football Lettermen’s Club, which is organizing the sale, is advertising it as a way for old Bulldogs to “come full circle.”

"We thought it would be great to be buried close to the stadium where we could hear the crowds six times a year," Mack Guest, a former lineman and president of the lettermen's club, told the Associated Press. "It goes back to the Georgia tradition. There's nothing like being in Athens on a Saturday afternoon."

Trivia time

Georgia’s first football mascot was not a bulldog. Which animal represented the school instead?

Cubs' October swoon

The rock band Smashing Pumpkins hails from Chicago, and during a recent hometown concert, lead singer Billy Corgan turned territorial when alluding to Eddie Vedder’s “All The Way,” inspired by the Cubs.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Corgan railed against Pearl Jam lead singer Vedder for writing the song, telling the crowd it doomed the Cubs’ chances of reaching the World Series.

''Last I checked, Eddie ain't living here, OK?'' Corgan reportedly said. ''Eddie ain't living here to write a song about my . . . team.''

No, Vedder’s band is Pearl Jam, based in Seattle. But Vedder is a native of Evanston, Ill., and inspirational fodder in Seattle -- home of the Mariners, Seahawks and Washington Huskies -- isn’t much these days.

History lesson

Maradona was well-received in Glasgow earlier this month, winning his debut as Argentina’s national team coach with a 1-0 victory over Scotland. Scottish fans have a deep appreciation for how Maradona tormented England during his career, in particular the infamous “Hand of God” goal that knocked England out of the 1986 World Cup.

Maradona told reporters in Glasgow that England benefited in 1966 from a controversial goal by Geoff Hurst in the final against West Germany.

"England won a World Cup, and it was plain to see for everyone that they did that with a goal that did not cross the line,” he said. “I don't think it's fair to judge me [for 1986] when stuff like that went on in 1966."

Trivia answer

A goat was Georgia’s first mascot. It appeared at Georgia’s first football game, against Auburn in 1892, wearing a black coat with the letters “UG” on the sides.

And finally

After his Dallas Cowboys defeated Seattle on Thanksgiving, Coach Wade Phillips praised quarterback Tony Romo, saying, “If we get the splint off, he might throw for 300 yards — oh, wait, he did.”

Playing with a splint on the little finger of his passing hand, Romo indeed completed 22 of 34 passes for 331 yards in the Cowboys’ 34-9 triumph.

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Gravestones in the Oconee Hill Cemetery are shown with the University of Georgia's Sanford Stadium in the background. The cemetery has opened a special section for Georgia lettermen and their families. Credit: John Bazemore / Associated Press

Totally Random

Becker_500

What's worse than being dumped by your fiancee via text message?

Being dumped by your fiancee via six text messages.

This happened to former tennis star Boris Becker, 40, when Sandy Meyer-Woelden, 25, informed him by text messages that they were breaking up.

"On Friday evening, Oct. 31, I suddenly got an SMS from Sandy . . . saying that this was it, that this is over," Becker told German newspaper Bild.

"To make sure how serious she was, she sent me five others saying the same thing.

"I was completely surprised."

For the record, such a breakup is considered poor form, even in the chillier climes of this digital age. Those texts, Becker said, "trampled on my soul."

Trivia time

Who is the only man to have played in both the Super Bowl and the World Series?

Off the mound for a day

Softball pitcher Jennie Finch served as grand marshal of Thursday's Thanksgiving Day parade in Chicago. How did that happen?

"I don't know," Finch told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They asked and I said I'd be delighted." Finch's Chicago connection is her spot on the Chicago Bandits women's National Professional Fastball team, which won the league title this year.

"It's a dream come true," Finch said of pitching professionally. "I wanted to be a Dodger growing up. This is the next best thing."

Seeing himself in another

Lakers guard Jordan Farmar is writing a weekly blog for Playboy.com. Here is his scouting report on UCLA: "Of course, I still follow my college team UCLA. Playboy had the Bruins at No. 6 in their preseason Top 25. They had an early bump, losing in an upset to Michigan in the 2K Sports Classic. That prevented them from playing Duke in the final. But it was an early-season wake-up call, to let them know they're not as good as they think, that they have to continue to work hard. IMO, they're going to be extremely competitive. I think they're going to control the Pac-10 again and go deep into the tournament. It's a matter of how fast the young fellows come along and start playing at a high level.

"One UCLA freshman to watch is guard Jrue Holiday. He's going to be special. Watching him play reminds me of my game at that stage: He has a good feel for the game, is unselfish, he does things to get his teammates involved, while playing the game the right way."

Trivia answer

Deion Sanders.

And finally

From NBC "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno: "I'll tell you how bad the economy is. [Sunday] night, I saw Jack Nicholson at a Clippers game."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Boris Becker and former fiancee Sandy Meyer-Woelden at a September fundraiser for one of Becker's charities. Credit: Ursula Dueren / EPA

Totally Random

Cowboys mascot Rowdy

How do you hype the Thanksgiving Day game broadcast that can’t be hyped, the seemingly massive mismatch between the 10-1 Tennessee Titans and the 0-11 Detroit Lions?

Jim Nantz, who is calling Thursday's Titans-Lions game on CBS, tried this in a network news release:

Based on records, if 0-11 Detroit beats 10-1 Tennessee, you would have to throw this game into the argument of being one of the greatest regular-season upsets in the history of the National Football League. It would definitely have to be right up there, if not the biggest of all, if Detroit was able to spring that upset.

Now to make this clear, I’m not comparing this to (Joe) Namath and the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III, or anything like that that has happened in the post-season. I’m dealing with records. Based on that, this would have to rank right up there.

If you don’t buy that, CBS could always try: It’s something to do to kill time between breakfast and the first turkey leg.

Trivia time

Who won the first nationally televised NFL Thanksgiving game?

Another turkey shoot?

In Thursday's second NFL game, the 7-4 Dallas Cowboys host the 2-9 Seattle Seahawks, who are quarterbacked by the league’s lowest-rated passer, Matt Hasselbeck. Considering the customary state of the Lions -- usually lousy -- the Seahawks, coming off four consecutive NFC West titles, rank as the most disappointing team in the league.

Last year, Hasselbeck broke numerous team passing records in guiding the Seahawks to a 10-6 record. This season, he missed five games with a bulging disk in his back, and the Seattle receiving corps has endured seven injuries. Last season, Hasselbeck wound up playing in his third Pro Bowl.

“Not going to be doing that this year,” he told the Associated Press.

Not so Rowdy

Not expected to see much air time during Thursday's game in Dallas is Cowboys mascot Rowdy, who has been put on a short leash by the team after celebrating a touchdown by Terrell Owens with a pre-meditated chest bump.

With the league cracking down on that kind of celebrations, the NFL threatened the Cowboys with a five-figure fine. So last Sunday, Rowdy was seen on the field for opening kickoff and then in the upper deck mingling with fans in the fourth quarter.

No truth to the rumor that Rowdy and Brad Johnson are indeed the same person.

Swimmer hits his mark

It was a cameo that could have been timed like one of his races, in milliseconds -- Michael Phelps bumping into actor Kevin Connolly on the street and telling him to “Watch out, man” on a recent episode of "Entourage."

Phelps, a big fan of the show, was offered the cameo when he happened upon shooting in midtown Manhattan and was written into a scene by producer Doug Ellin. It wasn’t much, but SFGate.com reports that Phelps “impressed” the cast and crew and has been offered a “recurring role” in the series.

Actor Jeremy Piven told SFGate.com, “I could see him coming back as one of the boys. I can see [my character] Ari being very aggressive in recruiting him to represent him and also stopping at nothing to poach him from another client. That's what Ari would do."

Trivia answer

The Detroit Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers, 26-14, on Thanksgiving Day 1962. It was the Packers’ lone defeat of the season.

And finally

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald, on the opinion that Gators quarterback Tim Tebow should turn pro a year early: "According to a panel of college coaches who happen to be Florida's 2009 opponents.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Rowdy, the Dallas Cowboys' mascot, is shown during happier days.  Credit: Donna McWilliam / Associated Press

Totally Random

Detroit Lions fan during the final moments of a loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field last Sunday.

Eighteen percent of pro football fans are so dedicated to their teams that they would never marry a fan of their team’s biggest rival.

More than four in 10 pro football fans would rather have their child become an NFL star than win a Nobel Prize.

Those disturbing findings were produced by Expedia’s “Go Like Pro Survey,” which also revealed:

Forty-one percent would miss their own birthday party to see a game.

Thirty-nine percent would skip a “hot date” to see a game.

Twenty-five percent have a better memory for pro football statistics than they do for the birthdays and anniversary dates for family and friends.

One in five fans would travel 1,000 miles or more to see a favorite team play an important game.

Of course, Southern Californians who still are interested in seeing the Rams or Raiders play live have no choice but to travel to see their team in action.

Trivia time

Who was first Heisman Trophy winner to play in the Rose Bowl?

Red flag warning?

How formidable is agent Scott Boras within the realm of Major League Baseball?

Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff recently told the Associated Press his team was preparing for an amateur draft when he noticed that certain prospective selections were positioned on one board with different colored cards.

“What is that?” Wolff asked his baseball operations staff.

Reply: “Scott Boras clients.”

Big Apple Bowl

With the Giants and the Jets in first place in their respective divisions, New York already has begun to discuss the once-unthinkable: a Subway Super Bowl.

Noting that the Super Bowl is “only 68 days away,” Tuesday’s New York Daily News published position-by-position matchups for “the dreamiest of Super Bowl dreams.” The Giants get the edge at every position except wide receiver, linebacker and secondary -- including quarterback, Eli Manning over Brett Favre, which is a claim that wouldn’t have been made before the last Super Bowl.

The Daily News favors the Giants to win this one, 27-23.

Now, about the next two months ...

Said the pieman

After wolfing down 41 mince pies in 10 minutes to win an eating competition, Denzil Gunner told the London Daily Telegraph he was thankful for the timing of the event. “I’m glad it’s over a month to Christmas when I have to eat another one,” he said.

Trivia answer

Frank Sinkwich of Georgia, in the 1943 victory over UCLA, was the first Heisman winner to play in the game.

And finally

Headline at the satirical Onion.com website: “Jimmie Johnson’s car put out to stud.”

-- Mike Penner

Editor's note: The answer to the Totally Random trivia question was incorrectly given as O.J. Simpson. Correction made at 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday.

Photo: Detroit Lions fan are shown during the final moments of Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Totally Random

Baseball scouts watched earlier this month as Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, both from India, worked out in Tempe, Ariz.

For 28 years, jockey Anthony Knott raced horses with the same result: Not Anthony. Twenty-eight years without a victory -- it was enough to make sure the English dairy farmer kept his day job.

But last Thursday, Knott finally broke through, winning the first race of his career -- an event that proved so personally exciting, Knott stood up in his irons prematurely to wave to the crowd and was nearly overtaken in the final furlong.

“I'm a bit unaccustomed to victory,” Knott told the Daily Mail,  “and as I was coming into the final part of the race there was a massive roar from the crowd.

"It was just instinct to stand up and give them a wave, I wasn't thinking straight for a minute.

“Then I thought, 'Oh, God, it's not finished yet,' and I could hear another horse coming up behind me so I sat back down and got on with it.”

Knott, 44, has decided to celebrate his victory with retirement.

"I'm over the moon -- 28 years is a long time to wait for a victory,” he said. “I just wanted to win one race and I've done it now, so I think I'll leave it at that.”

Trivia time

What major league baseball franchise lost seven consecutive World Series games by one run?

Not a Cleveland Indian

How desperate are the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitching help?

Monday, the team signed two 20-year-old pitchers from India who had never picked up a baseball before competing in a reality show in their home country earlier this year called “Million Dollar Arm.”

Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel were the top finishers in that show, which sought to find athletes who could throw strikes at 85 mph or faster. Neither threw hard enough to win the top prize of $1 million, but Singh earned $100,000 and Patel $2,500 plus his trip to the United States. Six months ago, both athletes moved to the United States and began working out with USC pitching coach Tom House.

Singh and Patel are believed to be first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts outside their country. The Associated Press reported the news in a story carrying the headline: “Pirates sign Indian -- not Cleveland -- pitchers.”

Pass the popcorn

The Oakland Raiders’ offense this season has been described as one-dimensional, no-dimensional and occasionally two-dimensional, but on Dec. 4 in a select few theaters, the Raiders will actually upgrade to three-dimensional.

In three theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, the Raiders' game against the San Diego Chargers that night can be seen in 3-D. The game is seen as a preliminary step in a long road to eventual regular 3-D broadcasts of NFL games.

Which raises the obvious question: Will the Raiders look any better viewed through blue- and rose-colored 3-D glasses?

Trivia answer

The Philadelphia Phillies.  In 1915 the Phillies lost Games 2,3 and 4 to the Boston Red Sox by 2-1 scores and Game 5 by a score of 5-4. In 1950 the Phillies returned to the World Series and lost Game 1 to the Yankees, 1-0; Game 2 by a score of 2-1; and Game 3 by a score of 3-2.

(Trivia question submitted by reader Charles Conner of Irvine.)

And finally

Just wondering: After the New York Jets’ victory over this season’s last remaining undefeated team, the Tennessee Titans, there were many references to the 1972 Miami Dolphins gathering again to pop celebratory bottles of champagne.

Those Dolphins completed a perfect 14-0 regular season and finished 17-0 overall with their Super Bowl victory over Washington. But last season, the New England Patriots eclipsed both those marks, completing a 16-0 regular season and running its record to 18-0 before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

Doesn’t that make any Dolphins champagne toast this season taste a little flat?

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Baseball scouts watched earlier this month as Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, both from India, worked out in Tempe, Ariz. Credit: Matt York / Associated Press

Totally Random

Docrivers_300During a timeout in a game last week against the Detroit Pistons, the Boston Celtics entertained fans with a contest on the scoreboard in which a couple players tried to name all of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs.

Ray Allen got five right. Eddie House had three. A fan picked from the crowd got six.

Which did they all forget?

Doc.

So, how did Celtics Coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers (pictured at right) feel about that ?

“I think we’re going to practice on Monday, now,” he said, jokingly. “Honestly, I don’t think I could name all seven, either.”

Trivia time

What were the names of the Seven Dwarfs?

Some soup for you

Jim Fox, the Kings' color analyst, will have a soup named after him at the Redondo Beach Cafe, with a ceremony Wednesday as part of a viewing party for the Kings game at Edmonton. The game is not shown locally, but the restaurant will pick up the Edmonton feed.

(Didn't the Kings pick up something else from Edmonton 20 years ago? Oh, yeah. Wayne Gretzky.)

Fox will have the restaurant’s chicken noodle soup permanently named after him. Just to be clear, that's chicken, not ham.

'Cheap' shot

So, now, the truth comes out about the Allen Iverson era in Denver. Nuggets Coach George Karl recently told the Denver Post that since the trade that sent Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Chauncey Billups, "There are less bad plays, more solid plays [now]. I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have, 10 to 15 a game, they don’t exist much anymore.

"Sometimes I saw something, but I couldn’t get it done on the court because I didn’t have a playmaker out there."

Cushy comfort

Minnesota Timberwolves Coach Randy Wittman hasn’t lost any sleep over his team’s 2-9 start, but he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the décor of his bedroom has changed.

"I sleep in a padded bedroom now," Wittman quipped.

Trivia answer

Bashful, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy and, of course, Doc.

And finally

Headline at the satirical website SportsPickle.com: "Players-only meeting spent discussing whether to admit kicker and punter."

-- Mike Penner

Photo credit: Winslow Townson / Associated Press

Totally Random

Drew Stanton, left, and tight end John Owens react to another loss earlier this month.

On Sunday at Ford Field, the Detroit Lions will continue their quest for the NFL’s first 0-16 season, going up against Tampa Bay, the franchise that gave the NFL its only 0-14 season.

The Lions are 0-10 and not likely to be favored in any of their remaining games. But they have a ways to go to aesthetically match the 1976 Buccaneers, who went winless as a first-year expansion team.

These Lions have been outscored by 13½ points a game. The ’76 Buccaneers were outscored by an average of 20½ points a game.

These Lions have held a fourth-quarter lead three times so far this season. The ’76 Buccaneers had one fourth-quarter lead the entire season -- and it lasted all of 183 seconds.

John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times wrote, “If you know anything about those '76 Bucs, you know it's preposterous to think another team could possibly be more inept.”

Trivia time

How many times were the Buccaneers shut out in 1976?

Let it go, Shaq

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal insist they have no feud, but that didn’t stop Charles Barkley from “call(ing) out one of my favorite people, one of the five greatest players ever that I love watching, Shaquille O’Neal.”

During TNT’s telecast of Thursday’s Lakers-Suns game, Barkley advised O’Neal, “You’ve got to let this thing go, man. You have been one of the greatest players in NBA history and (one of the) greatest players ever. You are one of the nicest (guys) people are ever going to meet and you are great for charity. Hey, man, finish your career as that guy. You don't want to be, when we all lose our talent, you don't want to be a bitter, angry guy going out the game.

“You are too good of a person. Let this thing with Kobe go. The rap thing last summer ... Hey man, you are too good of a person to finish your career like that. Just be one of greatest players ever, one of the nicest guys ever, let all that crap with the Lakers go and let it go.”

Don't tread on me

If a prank lies at the feet of thousands of soccer fans and no one notices it for four years, how effective a prank was it?

At Wolverhampton Wanderers’ home stadium in England, a mischievous bricklayer used dark bricks to spell out the nickname of Wolves’ archrival Birmingham City -- “Blues” -- near the turnstile.

It took a few years, but Wolves finally noticed and replaced the brickwork. One fan, Lisa Jones, 40, of Bilston told the Sun: “When you’re on the way in with so many other people you don’t really look at the floor.”

Wolves spokesman Matt Grayson added: “It won’t be a big surprise to any of our fans that we walked over the opposition at Molineux.”

Trivia answer

Five.

And finally

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo recently took a homeless man who called himself “Doc” to see the movie "Role Model," the Dallas Morning News reported. Romo's response when Doc mentioned he hadn't showered in days: "Don't worry about that. I'm used to locker rooms."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton, left, and tight end John Owens react to another loss earlier this month. Credit: Paul Sancya /Associated Press

Totally Random

The Washington Redskins are one game over .500. They have allowed one more point than they have scored. They stand a good chance of sitting out of the playoffs in January.

But if the season ended today, 20 Redskins would be headed to the Pro Bowl.

"You’ve got to be kidding me," offensive right guard Randy Thomas, one of the Redskins’ chosen many, told the Associated Press.

Based only on the results of fan voting so far, eight of 11 NFC starters on both offense and defense would be Redskins, along with all four special teams players. Fan voting on nfl.com, which continues through Dec. 9, counts for one-third of the total. Players and coaches votes each count for one-third as well, so the Redskin landslide could be stemmed in late December.

"We encouraged our fans to vote for the Pro Bowl, and they responded in record numbers," team spokesman Zack Bolno said. "Our fans are always enthusiastic and supportive of the Redskins and they demonstrated their passion by voting for their favorite players."

Trivia time

How many players did the Dallas Cowboys send to last season’s Pro Bowl?

Members of the Kansas City Chiefs watch the closing moments of Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Free tickets? No thanks.

Attendance is down this season for the Kansas City Chiefs, who have lost 19 of their last 20 games.

A local mechanic, Nick Cooper, told the Kansas City Star that if someone gave him free tickets, "I guess I’d go."

Cooper rested his forearms on the fender of a Ford Expedition and thought it over.

"Then again, there’s parking," he said. "And food. And I can sit home and see it better. Nah, I have better things to do."

Fear of Bud

Mini-baseball was a big hit in the World Series, with lots of people very excited about the tight and taut three-inning exercise that enabled the Philadelphia Phillies to wrap up the title after rain originally suspended Game 5 in the middle of the sixth inning.

Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff got a little carried away with the less-is-more-theme when he proposed the first round of the playoffs be shortened to one game.

"I’d make it one-and-you’re-out for the first series," Wolff told the Associated Press. "It would be exciting. It would be great."

Has Wolff mentioned his grand plan to baseball commissioner Bud Selig yet?

"No," he said, "I’m afraid to do that."

No fear

Reader Conrad Casler of Claremont writes:

"In your Saturday 'Totally Random' article concerning author Julian Norridge’s assertion that the U.K. not the U.S. invented baseball as delineated in a Jane Austen novel:

"Phooey!

"One has to go back several millennia not decades before Austen or Abner Doubleday (arguably) dreamed up Bud Selig’s ill gotten bread and butter.

"The first words in the Old Testament’s first book, Genesis, settle the dispute. You should look it up!

" 'In the big inning ... ' "

Trivia answer

Thirteen.

Where's Chris Berman?

From Dan Daly of the Washington Times, on the WNBA Mystics hiring their 11th coach in 11 years: "Just call her Julie ‘Walk The’ Plank."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Members of the Kansas City Chiefs watch the closing moments of Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. The Chiefs lost, 30-20. Credit: G. Newman Lowrance / Getty Images

Totally Random

Donovan McNabb Donovan McNabb (pictured here) took a lot of flak for admitting he didn’t know NFL regular-season games could end in ties, but it turns out the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback is not alone among NFL players.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the Associated Press he guessed half the league’s players didn’t know. Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, an 11-year veteran, said he one of them -- and he played in a tie game only six years ago.

The Eagles tied the Cincinnati Bengals, 13-13, last Sunday for the league’s first tie game since 2002. The Bengals play the Steelers tonight and Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he was confident his players knew the game could end in a tie.

"I assume they do," Tomlin replied, "but obviously that’s a dangerous assumption."

Trivia time

The Eagles tie with the Bengals was the first in the NFL since Nov. 10, 2002. Which teams played in that game?

Zoned out

The NFL’s four West Coast teams -- Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks -- are a combined 0-11 in games played in the Eastern time zone this season, USA Today notes.

The newspaper discusses the pitfalls of traveling cross-country and losing three hours and players being worn out by the time they arrive on the East Coast.

One other thing: The West Coast teams are a combined 11-29 playing anywhere this season.

Zoned in
 
Revving up the obligatory trash talk required to hype their junior welterweight championship fight in Las Vegas, Paulie Malignaggi and Ricky Hatton have not disappointed.

Malignaggi: "All I know is Saturday night, I am going to beat his  ... !"

Hatton: "I should beat him and if I don’t beat him, I’ll have to start looking at things a little closer."

Malignaggi: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. He’ll use his plan until I punch him in his."

Hatton: "Sure, my fans are coming over -- 8,000 to 10,000 of them will be here even with the credit crunch we’re having over in England."

Malignaggi: "Look at his resume. Other than [Floyd] Mayweather and [Luis] Collazo, the rest of the guys he fought were at least 100 years old."

Parking zone

The “ultimate tailgating vehicle” was recently auctioned off on eBay -- a bus Penn State used to transport its football players to Beaver Stadium for home games from 1980 to 2007, the first of several to put up for sale. The winning bid for the first bus on the block: $4,050.

"Entertain friends in style at next season’s tailgates with a vehicle steeped in Penn State football history," read the promotional copy.

Or will it get an initial call-out at this year’s Rose Bowl, should Penn State, as expected, get a bid? If so, it shouldn’t be difficult to spot in the parking lot. The bus is painted blue ... and blue.

Trivia answer

The Atlanta Falcons rallied for 17 fourth-quarter points to tie the Steelers, 34-34.

Battle zone

Headline in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, after Notre Dame's reserves nearly blew a 27-7 lead against the Midshipmen in the final 10 minutes: "Leave the subs to Navy."

-- Mike Penner 

Photo: On Wednesday, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb holds up his hands saying he will not answer additional questions regarding an NFL overtime rule. Credit: Matt Rourke / Associated Press

Totally Random

Rich Rodriguez wipes his face during the fourth quarter of a 46-17 loss to Penn State in September.

A sure sign that a coach’s career is not proceeding as hoped is when he starts suggesting that fans get a life.

"It’s amazing some of the things that people would say [on a message board] or yell at you of a personal nature," Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters on Monday. "You almost want to tell them, 'Get a life.'

"There’s a whole lot bigger problems. Look at the economy."

Looking at the economy is a diversionary tactic, as far as Rodriguez is concerned. In Rodriguez’ first season as Michigan coach, the Wolverines have lost a school-record eight games, including a record five games at Michigan Stadium. Michigan, with only three wins, failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 1974.

And in their salvage-the-season finale against rival Ohio State, the Wolverines are 19-point underdogs, equaling the largest spread in series history.

Trivia time

What do Ohio State football players get if they defeat Michigan?

Numbers game

Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday became the first second baseman since Nellie Fox in 1959 to win the American League most valuable player award and the first Red Sox player to win the award since Mo Vaughn in 1995.

Fox and Vaughn ranked fourth and fifth on a list of all-time worst MVPs compiled by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Fox hit two home runs in his MVP season, an improvement from zero in 1958. Fox’s White Sox won the pennant, but second-place Cleveland received 42 home runs from Rocky Colavito and a .363 batting average from Tito Francona.

In 1995, Vaughn had MVP numbers (.300, 39, 126 RBI) but the Star-Telegram notes that Cleveland’s Albert Belle hit 17 points higher with 11 more home runs and the same number of RBIs. "This truly was a popularity contest," Scott McCoy of the Star-Telegram writes.

Game over

Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond talks to the Boston Red Sox before Game 1 of the ALCS last month. It took the Tampa Bay Rays a few weeks but they finally came up with a response to their World Series loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

They fired their mascot.

Or at least they fired the woman who wears the Raymond costume. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Kelly Frank, the woman who “perfected Raymond’s trademark butt shimmy,” was cut by the Rays on Monday after five years with the team.

Frank said she is "just as confused as everyone else" and was told just three weeks ago by her supervisors that she out-enthused the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, during the World Series.

Asked, then, what happened on Monday, Frank said, "My severance package is kind of up in the air right now, so ... "

Trivia answer

A gold charm in the shape of a pair of football pants. The tradition began in 1934 when Ohio State Coach Francis Schmidt told those wondering how his team would fare against mighty Michigan, "They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else." Schmidt’s Buckeyes then went out and defeated Michigan four consecutive times, all by shutout.

Word game

Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, on quarterbacks who are praised for the way they "manage" a game: “Talk about a backhanded compliment. It’s a euphemism for  'a guy I don’t want on my fantasy team.' "

-- Mike Penner

Top photo: Rich Rodriguez wipes his face during the fourth quarter of a 46-17 loss to Penn State in September. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press

Inset: Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond (it's a seadog) talks to the Boston Red Sox before Game 1 of the ALCS last month. Credit: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

Totally Random

Catania forward Gianvito Plasmati, right, pulled his shorts down as his teammate Giuseppe Mascara, not pictured, scored a goal during the Italian Serie A first division soccer match against Torino on Sunday.

Mike Singletary’s unconventional motivational tactics showed dividends on two continents Sunday. On the same day his San Francisco 49ers defeated the St. Louis Rams for Singletary’s first victory as an NFL head coach, soccer players in Italy dropped their shorts in an effort to score goals.

Catania used the strategy to great effect Sunday against Torino. While taking a free kick, three Catania players lined up in a wall and dropped their shorts to their knees in an attempt to block the vision of Torino goalkeeper Giuseppe Mascara. The ploy worked to perfection, with Giuseppe Mascara scoring in Catania’s 3-2 victory.

Afterward, former referees coordinator Paolo Casarin called the move “a trick that should not be tolerated anymore by the referees.”

Pietro Lo Monaco, Catania chief executive, disagreed, telling RAI state radio: “A trick? I wouldn’t say so. It’s up to the referee to decide if it should be penalized, otherwise I don’t see where the problem is. . . . Good taste is relative.”

Trivia time

Catania is coached by Walter Zenga. What is Zenga famous for?

Heidi turns 40

Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the “Heidi Bowl,” the famed 1968 Oakland Raiders-New York Jets game that NBC interrupted prematurely to begin the movie “Heidi.” The Jets led, 32-29, with about a minute to play when the network broke away. The Raiders then scored twice for a 43-32 victory, enraging millions of fans who missed the turn of events.

Raiders quarterback Daryle Lamonica threw a touchdown pass for the go-ahead score, and special teamer Preston Ridlehuber scooped up a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and scored the clincher -- all while most of the nation was watching a film about a little orphan girl making her way in the Swiss Alps.

“I’ve got the game ball,” Ridlehuber told USA Today. It is the only game ball he won during a 22-game pro career.

“People say I should be in the Hall of Fame. I haven’t been to Canton to see.”

Special orders team

Special teams players come from all walks of life. Some walk in off the street. Other, such as Courtney Bryan, are recruited out of fast-food restaurants.

Bryan was re-signed by the Miami Dolphins last week to upgrade their kick coverage, ending his stint working the late shift at Arby’s. Bryan played 12 games with the Dolphins in 2007 but was cut this year at the end of training camp.

Bryan says he wasn’t working at Arby’s because he was broke; he was just bored.

“I just like to work,” he said. “I like to do something with my time.”
 
Trivia answer

He was a goalkeeper for the Italian national team in the 1990 World Cup. Italy placed third in that tournament.

What's my line?

Alabama guard Alonzo Gee to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on the new three-point line in college basketball: “I just know to shoot behind the farthest line back there. It’s not that complicated.”

--Mike Penner

Photo: Catania forward Gianvito Plasmati, right, pulled his shorts down as teammate Giuseppe Mascara, not pictured, scored a goal during the Italian Serie A first division soccer match against Torino on Sunday. Credit: Francesco Pecoraro / Associated Press

Totally Random

     Philadelphia Eagles' Herm Edwards (46) pounces on a ball fumbled by New York Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik.

Thirty years have passed and Joe Pisarcik still can’t catch a break.

On Nov. 19, 1978, Pisarcik was quarterbacking the New York Giants to an apparent victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, running out the clock, when he fumbled a handoff to Larry Csonka. Eagles defensive back Herman Edwards recovered and returned the ball 26 yards for a touchdown that gave Philadelphia an improbable victory — and Pisarcik headaches when he attends a sports autograph show.

He recalled signing autographs once with other retired NFL players when an older man walked up and exclaimed, "Hey, you were the 'Miracle at the Meadowlands' guy."

"He was a nice guy," Pisarcik told the Associated Press. "He probably didn’t mean any harm. I said, 'Oh, I hadn't heard that one all day today. Glad you brought that to my attention. Thank you for sharing.' He looks at me like I’ve got four eyes.

"Then there was the guy who just walked up to me and said, 'You’re the guy who fumbled the ball! You’re the guy who fumbled the ball!'

"I told him, 'When I was your age I was the starting quarterback for the New York Giants of the National Football League. What are you doing?' "

Today, Pisarcik works on Wall Street, selling bonds in economically troubled times.

"Yeah," he said, "there’s another fumble."

Trivia time
Where did the Giants and Eagles finish the 1978 season?

In tunes
LeBron James' street cred took a hit when he admitted to teammates that he listens to Barry Manilow.

The website for Cleveland radio station WTAM 1100 reported that in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room Thursday, it was mentioned that James' longtime friend Carmelo Anthony admitted last year that he had some Manilow music on his iPod.

James said he probably had some Manilow too — though he caused teammates to laugh when he mistakenly referred to the singer as "Brian Manilow."

James dug out his iPod and unveiled evidence — Manilow tunes "Copacabana," "Mandy" and "I Am Your Child." But then James quickly switched back to listening to rap star Jay-Z.

No turkey here
Oscar De La Hoya, to the Associated Press, on maintaining his fighting weight of 145 pounds for his Dec. 6 bout against Manny Pacquiao: "No tamales, nothing like that. I even have to skip Thanksgiving. It's a tough life."

Trivia answer
The Eagles defeated the Giants in the regular-season finale to finish 9-7 and earned a wild-card playoff berth. The Giants wound up 6-10 and in last place in the NFC East.

Highs and lows
Jacksonville Jaguars running back and former UCLA star Maurice Jones-Drew, on KLAA 830’s "The Sports Lodge," talking about the difference between Los Angeles and Jacksonville:  "In L.A. you have the high life and Hollywood. In Jacksonville, you have alligators."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: In this Nov. 19, 1978 file photo, Philadelphia Eagles' Herm Edwards (46) pounces on a ball fumbled by New York Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik (9), right foreground, in the last minutes of the game. Credit: G. Paul Burnett

Totally Random

Andy Murray

An article in the current edition of Deuce Magazine chronicles Andy Murray’s rise to No. 4 men’s tennis player in the world, linking his success to a relatively new-found emphasis on fitness.

You can tell the writer is not a local guy when he recounts Murray meeting Mark Grabow, who is described as a “fitness guru who had worked for the Golden State Warriors, a famed basketball team from California.”

Murray’s current conditioning team includes Matt Little, “the upbeat strength and conditioning coach who supports the London [soccer] team Charlton Athletic with a passion, whose top tip is ‘smile’ and is in charge of Murray's fitness training, stretching routines, massage and ‘providing stimulating banter’".

No wonder Murray has climbed up the rankings so rapidly.

Trivia time

When did Murray turn professional?

It’s a stretch

A few facts about bungee jumping, courtesy of Telegraph.co.uk:

The first thing resembling a Bungee jump was carried out by hardy young men from Pentecost Island in the Vanuatu archipelago. They would throw themselves off wooden platforms with their legs attached to vines to prove their manhood.

Eccentric Oxford students carried out the first bungee jump with modern materials off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol on April Fool's' Day 1979. Using nylon braided rubber shock cords and dressed in top hats and tails, four members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club jumped off. They survived and were immediately arrested.

Prince William performed a tandem bungee jump with friend Guy Pelly over the River Nile while on holiday in Uganda in 2003.

What she meant to say

The Telegraph also reported that if the 2012 Summer Olympic Games were up for bidding now, in this economic climate, Tessa Jowell, minister in charge of those Games, says London would not have won them.

“Had we known what we know now, would we have bid for the Olympics? Almost certainly not,” Jowell recently told a group of leisure industry leaders.

Jowell later played down her remarks, saying, “I have often observed that we bid for 2012 in one economic climate and are now in another,” she said. “Had the scale of the downturn been anticipated, I am sure there would have been a view from some that this would not be the time to commit significant public expenditure to a project like the Olympics.

“But as I made clear in my speech, the reality is very different. This is precisely the time for the investment to be made. . . . It will regenerate one of the most deprived parts of east London and is already creating billions of pounds of work for British companies and jobs for thousands.”

Earth to Scott

The Chicago Sun-Times printed this quote from San Francisco Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom on how the economy is affecting free agency: ''Scott Boras said everything's fine. He came down from Mars last week and, I guess, he'll go back up and work on his stats.”

Trivia answer

In 2005.

Who's counting?

Houston Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels talks to the Houston Chronicle about those who doubt his ability: “I have been a backup for eight years. So if there’s 32 teams in the league times eight years, that’s 256 times that teams have said, `This guy is not a starter.’ So, yeah, I think there are some [naysayers] out there.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Andy Murray reacts after winning a point against Gilles Simon at the Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai 2008 on Wednesday. Credit: Diego Azubel / EPA

Totally Random

D.J. Gregory

D.J. Gregory, a 30-year old with cerebral palsy who was once given little hope of walking, just completed his personal PGA marathon -- he walked every hole of every round every week on this year’s tour.

Gregory walked a total of 3,256 holes, covering 988 miles. He traveled 79,838 miles, visited 23 states and two foreign countries (Canada and England) to reach his goal. He consumed 280 bottles of water, 259 bottles of sports drinks and 332 sodas.

He also fell 29 times. Gregory told the Associated Press: “The worst was at the Bob Hope. I tripped over some TV cables twice in 30 seconds.”

Gregory wrote a blog about his year on the tour and has considered writing a book. He was asked if he planned to skip golf’s silly season.

“I think I’m going to the Merrill Lynch Shootout,” he said.

Trivia time

Jack Nicklaus holds the record for most PGA Championship cuts made. Who is second on that list?

A passing fancy

The New York Times notes that the top two current leaders in NFL passer rating once were discarded to make room for Eli Manning with the New York Giants. Kurt Warner is first at 106.4, and was benched so Manning could play during his rookie season. Philip Rivers is second at 106.3, and was traded for Manning as part of a draft-day deal. Manning is currently 15th in passer rating at 88.8.

Job bank shot

The New Jersey Nets are offering free tickets to unemployed fans who submit resumes to the Nets Job Bank.

The program, which will make 300 tickets available for each of five selected home games, also will give fans who register access to a career fair at the Izod Center on Nov. 22.

What do the Nets get out of it? Maybe one of those applicants will be tall, have a jump shot and fit into the Nets’ rotation.

Terrell's tips

Terrell Owens appeared on David Letterman’s show Tuesday night to read the Top 10 list-- “TO’s Advice for Kids.” Advice included:

10. It’s Not Whether You Win Or Lose, It’s How Crazy Smooth You Look Playing The Game
9. Get Into A Line of Work That Includes Cheerleaders
8. Look Good
5. On Or Off The Field, Play It Safe And Wear A Cup
3. Listen To Me _ Do Not Cry During A Press Conference
2. There Ain’t A Damn Thing To Do In Green Bay
1. Show Up To Practice Every Day, Unless You’re Renegotiating

Trivia answer

Raymond Floyd.

On borrowed time?

From Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Charlie Weis played mostly with Ty Willingham’s players for two years. He went 19-6 with Fiesta and Sugar Bowl appearances. He has played with mostly his own players in the last two seasons. He is 8-13 and may not go to a bowl either year. Either he can’t recruit or he’s coaching them down. Or both.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: D.J. Gregory walks along the first hole during the final round at the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Disney Magnolia golf course on Nov. 9 in  Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Credit: Marc Serota / Getty Images

Totally Random

An undersized junior quarterback with a sizable pedigree just set the Mississippi state high school record for touchdown passes in a single season -- 43 -- with at least one playoff game left to be played.

His name is Dylan Favre.

His uncle plays quarterback for the New York Jets.

Dylan broke the old record with five touchdown passes in St. Stanislaus High’s game last week against Poplarville. Listed anywhere from 5 feet 10 to 6 feet, Dylan has not yet received much interest from colleges, though he has received standard-issue letters from UCLA, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Southern Mississippi.

Because he is Brett Favre’s nephew, Dylan finds himself a marked man. He says opponents are usually eager to "knock me out. ... Expectations are high."

Trivia time

Where did Brett Favre play his high school football?

Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Joke or no joke?

What do football players talk about on the field?

According to Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith, members of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday were joking about how bad the winless Lions are.

"They were cracking jokes," Smith, pictured here, told the Detroit News. "They thought we were a joke. They said we [stink]. They were saying that to me, that I [stink]. And I told them they [stink], too. And they said, 'Well, not as bad as [you].' And I said, 'You're right.' [Because] we haven't won one game."

Ouch!

Tonya Harding turns 38 today, prompting Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News to write: "Don’t look for her to celebrate by going clubbing. As she knows all too well, it’s bad for the knees."

Ouch! Part 2

Danish soccer player David Nielsen has revealed why he got dismissed from Norwegian club Stromsgodset back in 2005. According to the New Zealand Herald, Nielsen said he had warned "pretentious" Danish teammate Allan Gaarde -- who played briefly in Italy -- to stop "talking loudly about wine in Italian."

"I told him: 'The next time you speak Italian I will break you in half. You're not . . . Italian -- you spent eight months there.'

"So when he did it again I decided to break his ... legs like sticks. I jumped at him and bang. Jackpot. Felt good."
 
Trivia answer

Hancock North Central High in Kiln, Miss. Hancock North Central and St. Stanislaus are roughly 10 miles apart.

A cut above?

From Dan Daly of the Washington Times, on the Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony opening a barber shop: “Too bad he doesn’t play for the Clippers.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Lions lost, 38-14. Credit: Jason Miller / US Presswire

Totally Random

Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton hangs his head during the during the fourth quarter after being sacked several times by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Detr000000000it Li000000000ns are 0-9 with a real chance at the NFL’s first 0-16 season. They are 1-16 in their last 17 games, the worst stretch in club history, and have nothing but playoff contenders left on their schedule.

Sunday against Jacksonville, Coach Rod Marinelli had this choice at quarterback: Daunte Culpepper, who hadn’t played an NFL game in nearly a year and had only three days of practice with the Lions, or Drew Stanton, who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass. Ten days earlier, Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said he didn’t want to “embarrass” Stanton by putting him into a game.

Then everybody remembered: These are the Lions they were talking about. On this team, embarrassment is a way of life.

So Culpepper started, Stanton came off the bench to throw his first NFL pass for a touchdown, Stanton completed six of eight passes for 94 yards and certainly didn’t embarrass himself, not by traditional Lions standards. Detroit lost, 38-14, a rather generic result, given traditional Lions standards, and goes for 0-10 this weekend against NFC South leader Carolina.

Trivia time

Culpepper was the 11th overall selection in the 1999 NFL draft but the fourth quarterback chosen. Who were the three quarterbacks selected ahead of him?

A heavy test

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans are 9-0, although they face a stiff test with Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth appearing on the latest Sports Illustrated cover.

Karmic considerations notwithstanding, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck told the Tennessean that the idea of the 320-pound Haynesworth on the cover was “Great, as long as it is not the swimsuit issue."

A good goal 

Wayne Gretzky offered a few surprises during an interview in the December issue of GO Magazine.

"I love watching hockey, but to this day there’s nothing I love more than going to the park to watch my son play baseball. Being a parent has taught me a lot about being a coach. People say, 'You have to treat all the guys the same.' But they’re not [the same]. It’s like being a parent: All your kids don’t react the same way. You have to work to communicate with them; it’s one of the hardest parts of the job.”

Gretzky’s favorite pastime is youth baseball? Anything more surprising than that?

Well, yes: "I have one goal in hockey," he says. "I want to win the Stanley Cup here in Phoenix."

A cut on cuts

From Cam Hutchinson of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, after the Yankees cut Carl Pavano and Jason Giambi: "The team plans to replace them with an injury-prone pitcher and a player to be named in the Mitchell Report."

Trivia answer

Tim Couch was chosen first by the Cleveland Browns, Donovan McNabb went second to the Philadelphia Eagles and Akili Smith went third to the Cincinnati Bengals.

A high point

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: "Eagles receiver Hank Baskett is set to marry former Playboy playmate Kendra Wilkinson, reportedly proposing to her atop the Space Needle during his team’s visit to Seattle last weekend. Hugh Hefner immediately declared it the mother of all Baskett catches."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton hangs his head during the during the fourth quarter after being sacked several times by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Credit: Jason Miller / US Presswire

Totally Random

Stewart_300The final road uniform Babe Ruth wore as a first base coach for the 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers is up for auction.

How can bidders be sure the uniform is authentic?

Take one look at the size.

“The enormous size of the pants prove that Babe Ruth truly was larger then life,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, which is running the sale.

Trivia time

Who is the highest paid player in the NFL this season?

No-pace car

Two-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart has been chosen grand marshal for the Fiesta Bowl parade in Phoenix on Jan. 3, the first driver to be so honored.

Fiesta Bowl Executive Director John Junker had one warning for Stewart about the parade.

“We do have one rule,” Junker said. “There is no passing in the parade.”

Presidential thoughts

Seattle Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren says he was so pumped by Barack Obama's presidential triumph that he was tempted to talk to his struggling team about it, then thought better of it.

"Right now," Holmgren told the Associated Press, "I want them to think about how to get a first down."

Dear dairy

Minnesota Vikings safety Darren Sharper, to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, on what he remembers most from his years with the Packers: "A lot of cheese."

Trivia answer

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will make $27.7 million in 2008, including a $25.2 million signing bonus that was part of his offseason contract renegotiation.

And finally

Shaquille O’Neal reveals the secret to being Shaq: “When I say and do things, it’s all about marketing. Everyone will miss my ‘quotatiousness’ when I’m gone.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, shown at Dover International Speedway in June, might need to work on that wave before the Fiesta Bowl parade. Credit: Pat Crowe II / Associated Press

Totally Random

A bowler in Canoga Park. We have already seen Barack Obama’s strength as an election-day closer. Now the Professional Bowlers Assn. wants to address an Obama weakness -- his bowling game.

During the primaries, Obama gave bowling a try at Pleasant Valley Recreation Center in Altoona, Pa., but managed only a 37 over seven frames. That prompted Obama to quip to Jimmy Kimmel that he was going to get rid of the White House bowling alley and replace it with a basketball court. The PBA has offered to give the Obama family bowling lessons. PBA veterans Billy Oatman and Norm Duke have offered their expertise, with Duke in a news release assessing the President-elect’s game.

“I saw the clip on YouTube and I have some tips for Obama,” Duke said. “Obama’s been in a suit and tie too long. He needs to get some athletic apparel and a bowling ball that fits his hand. He needs to work on hitting the head pin because he didn’t do that very well.”

The head pin, and/or any of the other pins left standing around.

Trivia time

Who is the only man in PBA history to win three consecutive major championships?

No Teacher's Pet

Stephon Marbury had a distinctive response to his lack of playing time with the New York Knicks. He volunteered to go back to school -- high school -- and practice with his alma mater, Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.

Marbury changed his mind by Friday, telling reporters that he spoke to the NBA Players Assn., and “they said it wouldn’t be a good idea.”

That’s one difference between the NBA and Major League Soccer -- and one difference between Marbury and David Beckham. When Beckham wants to stay in shape, he says he’s going to Milan for a few months and, well, he winds up going to Milan for a few months.

A Rhodes game

Florida State plays Maryland on Nov. 22 in an important Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division game, probably without safety Myron Rolle in the lineup.

Rolle isn’t hurt. He isn’t facing suspension. He’s a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship and he is due to interview with the scholarship selection committee in Birmingham, Ala., the same day the Seminoles play the Terrapins in Maryland.

Rolle has decided to attend the interview, which could keep him in Birmingham until 6 p.m. If the Florida State-Maryland game is a night game, there’s a chance Rolle could take a private jet to Maryland to give him a chance to play in the second half.

Game time has not yet been set, and Florida State Athletic Director Randy Spetman told the Palm Beach Post that the school will try to accommodate Rolle if possible.

"It's not a competitive advantage or disadvantage for the player," Spetman said. "This is what the NCAA is here for, to help the student-athlete excel in both the classroom and on the athletic field."

Trivia answer

Duke, who accomplished the feat two weeks ago at the World Championships in Wichita, Kan.

A higher authority

Chicago White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams, to the Chicago Tribune, on the downside of Barack Obama's being a huge White Sox fan: "Now I not only have to answer to [chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf about pitching, I have to answer to the president."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: A bowler gets ready to let one go in Canoga Park. Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times

Totally Random

Curt Hocker

For most, a hole-in-one is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And then there’s Curt Hocker, who nearly made it a daily occurrence last week, recording five aces during the week, including two Saturday.

"I don't know what to think," the 22-year-old Illinois amateur golfer told Chicago’s Daily Herald. “After each one I say it’s over, and it keeps happening.”

Hocker recorded all five holes-in-one at the El Paso Golf Club, where he works in the pro shop. He said he’s glad his club membership comes with “hole-in-one insurance” -- which calls for the club, and not the golfer, to pay for the traditional drinks for everyone in the clubhouse after an ace is made.

“I think the golf course is getting mad at me for all the drinks,” Hocker said.

Trivia time

How old was Tiger Woods when he hit his first hole in one?

Pride of the Yankees?

Jane Austen, baseball historian?

Author Julian Norridge, arguing that baseball originated in Britain, cites a reference to the game in Austen’s novel “Northanger Alley,” which was written in 1797-98. He says Austen referenced the sport in the early pages when she introduced tomboy heroine Catherine Morland, writing: "It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of 14, to books."

“There’s no doubt it was played in Britain in the late 18th century, and equally no doubt that it traveled to America,” Norridge writes in his book, “Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please?”

While on the topic of Americans rewriting British sports history, Norridge might want to examine what Hollywood did to Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch.”

Walking the plank

Mutiny is breaking out in the Oakland Raiders’ locker room following the release of Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

"I'm not on board with what happened to DeAngelo," Nnamdi Asomugha, a defensive team captain, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't agree with what's going on.... You can only bite your lip and play football."

"This is a soap opera over here," strong safety Gibril Wilson said. "I've never been in a situation where you cut one of the best players. That's strange to me. It's almost like you're throwing in the towel."

Actually, the Raiders already threw in the towel. It was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Trivia answer

Six years old.

Final Thought

Dan Daly, Washington Times: “Well, Charles Barkley, the erstwhile Round Mound of Rebound, is once again talking about running for governor of Alabama. I have my doubts, though -- not about the “governor of Alabama” part, but about the “running” part. With Charles, I suspect, it’ll be more like a slow jog, perhaps even a leisurely stroll.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Amateur golfer Curt Hocker holds three golf balls used on holes-in-one recently while playing at El Paso Golf Club in El Paso, Ill. Credit: Jim Benson / The Pantagraph / Associated Press Photo

Totally Random

Brandon Marshall Trash talk in the NFL never ends. After the Miami Dolphins defeated the Denver Broncos, 26-17, on Sunday, Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter called Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall “soft,” someone who will “mope and cry” if he doesn’t get the football.

Tuesday, Marshall issued a response to reporters huddled around his locker.

"Yeah, Joey Porter’s one of them guys, when you got guys who talk a lot of trash, just want to talk about people or put people down, they have their own insecurities," Marshall said. "And his insecurities I don’t know. ... All those muscles are popcorn muscles. He’s soft.

"You know, we hear stories floating around the league all the time about him as far [as being] in nightclubs dancing with his shirt off like a girl or in the playground getting beat up back in California.

"He’s one of those guys that no matter how big he is, he can still get knocked on his butt and he’s soft. He’s soft at heart and you can tell by the way he talks.

"And his nickname is 'Peezy.' I don’t know what 'Peezy' is."

Any guesses?

Trivia time

Greg Maddux won another Gold Glove on Wednesday, meaning he will probably retire with a record 18 of the fielding excellence awards. Maddux received his first Gold Glove in 1990, failing only once to win the award since then. Who interrupted Maddux’s streak and when?

Where's the romance?

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon embarks on a honeymoon with his second wife on Monday, a trip that will include stops in Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic. There, Maddon hopes to achieve a goal: Being recognized because of his association with the Rays.

"I’m hoping to be recognized in Europe," Maddon told the Associated Press, "because that would truly indicate the Tampa Bay Rays have arrived on the continent. That was one of my goals prior to the season."

He also said he wanted to see somebody wearing Rays gear. "And I shall take a photograph," he said. "I’ll ask that person to pose."

Maddon might have to wait a long time. Unless he brings some Rays gear and bribery, er, enticement funds. Art lovers, be warned: Maddon says he would love to put a Rays cap on the head of the statue of David.

Lost weekend?

How low can the football played in the state of Washington go?

Last weekend, for the first time in 60 years, Washington and Washington State were shut out on the same day. Washington lost, 56-0, to USC and incredibly kept things closer than Washington State did against Stanford. The Cougars lost to the Cardinal, 58-0.

That dropped the Huskies and Cougars to a combined 1-16 for the season. They plod along on a track that leads to their Nov. 21 meeting in Pullman, where Washington could potentially be winless and a double-digit favorite over Washington State.

Long live the Apple Cup!

"A rotten apple, I guess," Washington center Juan Garcia told the Associated Press.

Trivia answer

Mike Hampton in 2003.

To know or no?

From Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Marion Jones didn’t know there was something fishy in the 'flaxseed oil' coach Trevor Graham gave her? That’s like Bonnie saying she thought Clyde was using his ATM card to make all those bank withdrawals."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall reacts after his touchdown catch was called back for interference on his part against the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter of the Dolphins' 26-17 victory Sunday. Credit: David Zalubowski / Associated Press

Totally Random

DeAngelo Hall tackles Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner.

Vodka on ice and driving while intoxicated took on new meaning last week when an employee at Kingsville Arena in Canada was arrested and charged with drunk driving while behind the wheel of a Zamboni.

Witnesses said the driver, a 34-year old woman, was driving erratically while resurfacing the arena ice, bumping into the boards and missing large patches of ice, evidently having fallen asleep at the wheel. According to the Windsor Star, the woman had a “mickey of vodka” in her pocket.

Odd, but there is precedent for this case. In 2005, a New Jersey Zamboni operator named John Peragallo was charged with drunk driving after a fellow employee at Mennen Sports Arena told police Peragallo was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards. Peragallo’s blood alcohol level was over the legal limit.

Eventually, Peragallo was cleared of the charge by a Superior Court judge who ruled that Zambonis are not motor vehicles because they can’t be used on highways and can’t carry passengers.

Unless a lot more vodka is involved.

Trivia time

What is the maximum speed of the typical Zamboni?

Raider Vick?

Is it wild to suggest the Oakland Raiders quarterback for the 2009 season will be named Michael Vick?

After Sunday’s 24-0 loss to Atlanta, three Raiders -- DeAngelo Hall, Ashley Lelie and Justin Griffith -- said they would take pay cuts if it would help the team sign Vick after his anticipated release from prison next July, provided the league also reinstates Vick.

The Contra Costa Times suggests Vick could return in a different role than quarterback. But why not give him a shot? As it was Sunday, Vick was sitting in a prison cell and netted only 10 fewer passing yards than the Raiders managed against the Falcons.

Hanging around

As the Texas Longhorns discovered over the weekend, Texas Tech is a difficult place for a visiting team to win. Former Colorado football coach Gary Barnett calls Lubbock the toughest place to play in the Big 12.

Now an FSN broadcaster, Barnett recalled that "Once, in practice on a Friday, we were walking in and there's a guy with a puppet — it was a puppet of me, with a noose around its neck. And the guy was a professor at the university."

Sign of the times

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Kevin Love has hired a personal chef to keep him on a healthy diet as he adapts to life in the NBA. Timberwolves Coach Randy Wittman was asked whether players did such things during his playing days.

"No," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We got married."

Trivia answer

Nine to 10 miles per hour.

Final Thought

They think differently in Philadelphia. In a Philadelphia Inquirer online poll asking whether Phillies second baseman Chase Utley should have cursed when he addressed the crowd at Citizens Bank Park during a televised rally, "yes" was leading with 55.7% by Monday evening.

-- Mike Penner

Photo: The Raiders' DeAngelo Hall tackles Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner during Sunday's game in Oakland. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press Photo

Totally Random

Buckley_500

The so-called world’s worst boxer finally retired Friday night -- but not before finding someone he could beat.

In his 300th and final career bout, 39-year-old British super-featherweight Peter Buckley defeated Matin Mohammed (pictured above, left and right, respectively) on points in Birmingham, England, recording his first victory since 2003.

Buckley’s record in those 300 bouts: 32 victories, 256 defeats and 12 draws -- the worst on record.

Buckley told the BBC the proudest moment of his career was a fight in Austria against Harald Geler for an intercontinental WBA title. A loss. "He'd been knocking a few people out but he was nothing special and I had him over in the ninth round, but ended up losing on points over 12," he said.

Lows? Ah, there have been a few.

Life after boxing? "I definitely won't miss getting punched in the face for a living," he said.

Trivia time

Name the only professional football player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who never played a down in the NFL.

A bleeping mistake

The Philadelphia Phillies' World Series championship celebration at Citizens Bank Park on Friday lasted one word too long, in the view of defenders of polite speech.

On live radio and television, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley inserted a two-syllable profanity in between “world” and “champions” when given his chance behind the microphone.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that "the crowd loved it, erupting into cheers for several minutes. Local TV and radio stations covering the event live, however, were less amused."

Anchors quickly issued on-air apologies, even at CBS3, which was covering the event with a several-second tape delay. A spokeswoman for the station said a technician "hit the button but missed by a hair."

Fans were more forgiving. "I thought it was awesome," 17-year-old Steve Reinhardt said. "It got the loudest applause of the day."

One too many hits

What are the greatest hockey quotations of all time?

Here are five nominees, from the re-release of Chris McDonell’s "Shooting from the Lip: Hockey’s Best Quotes and Quips."

5. "I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body." -- Saku Koivu.

4. "Getting cut in the face is a pain in the butt." -- the Calgary Flames' Theo Fleury.

3. "Wayne came over to the bench one day after seeing [Zdeno] Chara and said, 'That's why I'm quitting.' " -- Rangers Coach John Muckler, laughing about Wayne Gretzky's comment on Ottawa's 6-foot-9 defenseman.

2. "Tell him he's Wayne Gretzky." -- Oilers Coach Ted Green, after Shaun Van Allen suffered a concussion and couldn't remember who he was.

1. "How would you like it if, at your job, every time you made the slightest mistake a little red light went on over your head and 18,000 people stood up and screamed at you?" -- Hall of Fame Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante.

Trivia answer

Billy Shaw, who played offensive guard for the Buffalo Bills from 1961-1969, all in the American Football League.

Final thought

Also from McDonell’s book is this explanation by Bruce McNall as to why he made the Gretzky trade in 1988:

"Luc Robitaille is a great kid and good player, but ask anybody on the street and they'd probably think Luc Robitaille is a type of salad dressing."

-- Mike Penner

Photo credit: Andrew Yates / AFP / Getty Images

Totally Random

No doubt Cubs fans will mope again when they hear the tattoo story. In this shot, fans show their dismay during Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.

First came the curse of the Billy Goat, then the curse of the black cat, then Steve Bartman. Newest entry into the Chicago Cubs’ Hall of Hexes is the tattoo that Cubs fan Jimmy Burroughs received in a Tennessee tattoo parlor in July.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cubs’ postseason demise was "preordained" when a mischievous tattoo artist added the words "Go Cards" to an etching of a Cubs logo on Burroughs' right shoulder blade. "I pretty much blame the tattoo for the Cubs losing," said Burroughs, 26, a child therapist from Bloomington, Ind. “It kills me to have a tattoo that says 'Go Cards.' "

The artist, Derek Rivers, told the Post-Dispatch that he is not a St. Louis Cardinals fan but added the words in red inside an outline of the Cubs' "C" as a joke. Burroughs and Rivers laughed, then Burroughs told Rivers to "color it in now." Rivers did, but the fill-in mysteriously faded and "Go Cards" re-emerged.

Rivers refunded Burroughs his $190 but Burroughs did not elect to have the tattoo fixed elsewhere. And we know what then happened to the Cubs: Swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Dodgers.

Trivia time

Who is the only Clipper to lead the NBA in rebounding for a season?

Pushy journalists?

A charity soccer match between members of Scottish Parliament and sports journalists last weekend had to be abandoned 10 minutes into the second half when a fight erupted.

The game was called off with the politicians leading, 6-2, after heated play resulted in players from both sides squaring up and pushing each other in the chest.

In the first half, television soccer commentator Chick Young had to be carried off the field after being on the receiving end of a hard tackle.

"This wasn’t any joke on Sunday, these people were an absolute disgrace," Young told Radio Scotland’s Sportsound. "The attitude toward the referee, the language that was used by the politicians on the occasion, was totally out of order.

"I honestly thought my ankle was broken. It’s not, but it’s pretty bad, and I had to abandon a day’s charity golf ... which broke my heart as well."

Not the first time charity and politics failed to mix.

Rocking the vote

A demonstration of political football in Houston last weekend was canceled, for better or worse, when the Cincinnati Bengals managed only two field goals in a 35-6 loss to the Houston Texans. Chad Johnson was planning to unfurl a Barack Obama banner if he scored a touchdown against the Texans.

"It was talked about," Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh told Dan Patrick last week. "We talked about it. I don’t know if he was able to get the banners. ... I think that’s what he wanted to do."

With the surprise element scuttled, will Johnson dare to try again today when the Bengals host the Jacksonville Jaguars? The 0-8 Bengals face the same dilemma as they did last Sunday in Houston: Can they score a touchdown?

20-year yechhh

The Orlando Magic almost celebrated its 1988-89 expansion season to the hilt on Wednesday.

Almost.

"The Magic lost their season opener, 99-85, to the Atlanta Hawks and looked horrible doing it," wrote Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.

"This was like the husband coming home early from work with flowers and candy for a 20th wedding-anniversary celebration and finding his wife making out with the pool guy. It tends to ruin the moment."

Trivia answer

Michael Cage, who averaged 13 rebounds during the 1987-88 season.

Cowboy talk

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to play the New York Giants today with Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger as their quarterbacks, Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News is already looking ahead to the Cowboys' upcoming bye week. Oliver writes, "Let’s hope Romo can be rebuilt in a week."

-- Mike Penner

Photo: No doubt Cubs fans will mope again when they hear the tattoo story. In this shot, fans show their dismay during Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. The Dodgers went on to sweep the series. Credit: Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune

Totally Random

San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, center, walks off the field after the 49ers lost to the the Seattle Seahawks.

It’s not often you hear a coach say "I used my pants to illustrate that we were getting our tails whipped" or read an ESPN.com news report that confirms what style of underwear the coach prefers. But it's a new era in San Francisco, now that Mike Singletary is coaching the 49ers.

Singletary pulled down his pants during his first halftime speech as an NFL head coach, an attempt to demonstrate to his players how poorly they were playing against the Seattle Seahawks.

"I needed to do something to dramatize my point," Singletary said. "There were other ways I could have done it, but I think this got the message across."

In reporting the story, ESPN.com felt the need to include a line not often seen in NFL reports: "Singletary was wearing boxers."

As motivational tactics go, this one fell short. Trailing the Seahawks, 20-3, at halftime, the 49ers went on to lose, 34-13.

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Trivia time
Who was named World Series most valuable player in 1980, the last time the Philadelphia Phillies won the title?

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The question isn’t what’s up for sale on eBay. The question is: What isn’t?

Rain water from Monday night’s washed-out World Series Game 5 can be yours for a minimum price of $8.99 per vial.

"You are bidding on rain from the same storm system that brought the game to a screeching halt," reads promotional copy written by the owner, Thomas. "It was collected no more than five miles away from Citizens Bank Park. It will be contained in a small vial and sent to you via priority mail. I do not know what size vial or exactly how much but you will get no less than 2 ml.

"I took a picture of the rain I had collected in a pan that was sitting on my front steps. That is the only collection unit I used so a very limited number of vials will be available and once they are gone, they are gone."

Thomas includes the following goes-without-saying words of caution: "Please be careful as I’m sure other will imitate and try to sell you tap water."

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Also available on eBay: A dinner for 10 prepared at your home by former NBA player Charles Oakley.

Celebrity Charity Auctions is offering this "once-in-a-lifetime" experience, coordinated by "Chef Oakley." Promotional copy says the "winner does not have to supply food, just their home and a working kitchen."

Current bid is listed at $770. But that includes an autographed basketball and a photo with Oakley taken at the dinner.

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Cole Hamels on David Letterman's show. Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels appeared on David Letterman’s show Thursday night to read his post-World Series top-10 list:

10.       Maybe I’ll get to be on “Dancing With The Stars.”

9.         Can I wear my cup in the off-season?

8.         The Rays collapsed faster than my 401(k).

7.         How cool a name is Cole Hamels?

6.         This must be how the Yankees used to feel.

5.         Is the Phillie Phanatic hitting on my wife?

4.         Seriously, how cool a name is Cole Hamels?

3.         How can I celebrate when the nation’s economic output is the weakest it’s been since the third quarter of 2001?

2.         I hope John McCain will start calling me “Cole the Pitcher.”

1.         Now maybe I’ll get to appear on Leno?

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Trivia answer
Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt.

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From Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Bates College, a tiny school in Maine, offers a course called, 'Red Sox Nation.' They may be getting carried away, though. I hear they teach that the Yankees' 26 World Series titles never actually happened."

-- Mike Penner

Top photo:  San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary, center, walks off the field after the 49ers lost to the the Seattle Seahawks. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

Inset: Cole Hamels on David Letterman's show. Credit: CBS

Totally Random

  T.J. Houshmandzadeh It’s not quite Joe Namath guaranteeing victory before Super Bowl III, but these days, whenever anyone associated with the Cincinnati Bengals promises anything positive, it’s newsworthy.
   Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh told Adam Schefter of NFL Network that his team, currently 0-8, will not finish this season 0-16.
   “If the season ends and we don’t win a game,” Houshmandzadeh said, “I will walk from my house to the NFL Network studios.”
   That would be Houshmandzadeh’s off-season residence in Cerritos, located about 27 miles from the NFL Network studios in Culver City, not his in-season home in Cincinnati.
   “I never thought about if we will go 0-16,” he said. “It never crossed my mind until you said it and asked me the question.”
    No word yet if any Detroit Lion is willing to make the same wager.

   Trivia time
   The Bengals made their debut as an American Football League expansion team 40 years ago. What was their record in their first season?

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  According to Forbes, the 2007-2008 season was the NHL's best in a decade. Revenue increased 13%, to an average of $92 million per team, and operating income increased 48%, to $4.7 million per team.
   How did this success shake out with our local teams?
   The Kings remained the same, Forbes valuing the AEG-owned franchise at $210 million, the same value assigned last year. The Kings are 12th overall on a list topped by the Toronto Maple Leafs at $448 million.
   The Ducks are 16th at $202 million, representing a 3% increase over last year.
   Finally, the Kings have found some standings where they rank higher than the Ducks.

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   Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Brian Berrian believes the NFL’s steroids hotline should shoulder some responsibility when it comes to the league’s supplement scandal.
   "You’ve got to take some responsibility and call into that hotline [to inquire about the legality of certain products]," Berrian told Sirius Radio. "But I know one thing about that hotline. I’ve called twice before and actually never gotten a hold of anybody sometimes. So even when you try to do the right thing sometimes it is still hard to get a hold of somebody to find out what you’re really taking."
   The NFL says it plans to make improvements with its hotline. In the interim, an aside to NFL players: If you do not know, just say no.

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   The student newspaper at the University of Kansas has been lobbying fans at Jayhawks football games to clean up their act and abandon an expletive-tinged chant that has gone up from the stands on kickoff. Taken from a line in the Adam Sandler movie “The Waterboy,” fans yell for the Jayhawks to "rip his . . . head off."
   The University Daily Kansan and Coach Mark Mangino asked fans to chant something else.
   Last Saturday, however, the chant lived on, but no opposition heads were ripped off. Kansas was routed by Texas Tech, 63-21.

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   Trivia answer
   The 1968 Bengals finished 3-11. After three games, they were 2-1.

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   Pete McEntegart of SI.com, writing about bounties in the NFL: “Former Ravens coach Brian Billick told radio host Dan Patrick that most teams really do offer bounties to knock guys out of the game. In fact, he knows this all too well because his players put one out on him.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: Cincinnati Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh pulls in a 5-yard pass during the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Credit: Dave Einsel / Associated Press

Totally Random

Game Five Suspended

It’s a different world in Las Vegas, and in Las Vegas Monday night, World Series Game 5 had a winner.

According to the city’s sports books, the final score was Philadelphia 2, Tampa Bay 1. Never mind the half-inning that was played before the game was suspended because of rain -- the top of the sixth, which saw the Rays tie the score on Carlos Pena’s two-out RBI single.

According to Nevada gaming rules, the final score of an official game is determined by reverting back to the last completed inning. Monday night, that would have been the fifth inning -- the Phillies led, 2-1, after five innings. Las Vegas sports books are paying off Game 5 side bets on Philadelphia, with some adding proposition bets for the conclusion of Game 5.

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Trivia time

How long did it take to complete the 1962 World Series between the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants, a series that had two games rained out?

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According to reports, Diego Maradona is about to be named coach of Argentina’s national soccer team. Maradona told Radio La Red, “My first job will be watching the players. I'll try to talk to them one by one and then work at the training camp in Ezeiza with them.”

And what should Maradona’s first words to his players be?

Something along the lines of “Do what I say, not what I do.”

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On paper, the University of North Texas is muddling through as bad a season as a football team can possibly have.

The Mean Green is 0-8 overall -– 0-4 at home, 0-4 on the road, 0-4 in conference. Scores have been ugly: 45-6, 56-26, 41-3, 77-20, 69-30, 45-17.

Just when it appeared things could not get worse, the Mean Green received results of a team-wide drug test Coach Todd Dodge requested earlier this fall. Out of 86 players that took the test, 15 failed.

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Trivia answer

Thirteen days. The Yankees won the series, 4 games to 3.

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From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Cleveland Browns, not amused when Kellen Winslow complained he was being treated like ‘a piece of meat,’ benched their star tight end for [last] Sunday's game.

“Considering he gets paid $4 million this season, the going price of beef just shot up to $16,000 a pound.”

-- Mike Penner

Photo: An electronic billboard outside Citizens Bank Park announces that suspended Game Five of the World Series will not be played Tuesday due to inclement weather. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press Photo