Back in January 2008, the Australian Open finals featured Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova in one of the most eagerly-anticipated women’s tennis matches ever. Sharapova won the match, but it seemed like the sport was set for one of the hottest - in every sense of the world - rivalries in recent memories.
It’s not just that Ivanovic lost - at times, she looked absolutely lost, seemingly unable to do something as simple as throw the ball into the air correctly during her serves. Call it the tennis equivalent of Rick Ankiel’s pitching yips, although more attractive to watch if just as awkward. Ivanovic took to burying her head in a towel during changeovers, which is probably what a lot of fans wanted to do after watching her stumble to defeat.
Meanwhile, Sharapova was confident and poised in her easy victory. Her tennis game looked great, while her outfit … let’s just say it looked like something you might have seen in a teen dance competition in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1987. And not to go Mr. Blackwell on your here, but honey, Cher called from 1975 and she wants her beaded headband back. Unless you are planning on belting out a rousing version of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” after winning your next match - in that case, it’s all yours.
Sharapova said that her outfit was “inspired by the architecture of New York.” Which is a perfect transition to talk about one of the other great metropolises of the Americans: Saskatoon. Because FACEOFF.COM says that one of the bidders for the Phoenix Coyotes has already booked five dates at the Credit Union Centre (the Madison Square Garden of Saskatchewan) to hold games there if they get the team next season.
(There really is nothing quite like Saskatoon in December…)
Which leads to the question: what other events would possibly be happening in Saskatoon so you would need to save the date? A quick look at the Credit Union Centre event schedule shows a lot of minor league hockey…and not much else. Somehow I think that the arena would be willing to postpone the Saskatoon Blades vs. Moose Jaw Warriors showdown for an NHL game.
A partner for Ice Edge Holdings said that the team would be playing most of its games in Phoenix and not moving to Saskatoon permanently, which is too bad: it would be great to see NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman get an involuntary eye twitch every time he tries to explain how having a team in Saskatoon is good for the league.
Finally, Adrian Beltre returned to the Seattle Mariners last night after learning a valuable lesson about wearing a cup while playing third base on August 14 - as in “for the love of all things good and holy, wear one!” You might remember that Beltre thought his testicle had “exploded” after taking a scorching drive to the crotch.
After sitting out a few weeks (and probably getting some counseling for his lingering trauma issues), Beltre was back, and the Mariners decided to have a little fun at his expense. Ken Griffey Jr. had said he had the “perfect” music for Beltre’s first at-bat, and the person in charge of the songs being played over the PA delivered. Our own Scott Sepich was at the game, so I’ll pass along what he relayed to me:
“I was at the Mariners-Angels game tonight, and in Adrian Beltre’s first at-bat since coming off the DL, the music they played for him when he came to the plate was the “Nutcracker Suite.” A few of us in the press box caught on, but I’m not sure that the crowd got it. I thought it was pretty brilliant.”
If there was one team in the NFL that had to be screwing the fans over by selling tickets directly to scalpers, it had to be the Washington Redskins, right? Too bad they can’t do the same thing with Six Flags tickets to prop up sales numbers.
Your nightly NFLPA train wreck update: the Department of Justice is confirming that they are investigating collusion claims by the union’s former HR director. She says that former player representative Troy Vincent had illegal meetings with Roger Goodell and Texas owner Robert McNair where he divulged classified information. Troy Vincent had a trouble keeping information private? That sounds strangely familiar.
Ladies, Rafael Nadal is playing at the U.S. Open in see-through shorts. Why can’t we get this technology in the women’s side of things (except for Serena Williams)?
Sometimes being a”football hero” takes on a different connotation: Kaleb Eulls, a star player at Yazoo High in Mississippi who has committed to Mississippi State, is being praised after disarming a 14-year-old girl who pulled out a loaded semi-automatic weapon on a full school bus.
Former Kentucky basketball star Edward Davender has been arrested as part of a ticket scalping scam involving Wildcats basketball tickets. If convicted, he could be sentenced to work for the Washington Redskins.
Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Charles Rogerson the same CFL football team? Can someone please tell me how I can get Winnipeg Blue Bombers games on TV here in the lower 48?
Andy Roddick is less than thrilled with the U.S. Open trying to clamp down on players Twittering because they are concerned about players giving up “inside information.” Roddick’s retort (via Twitter): “you would seriously have to be a moron to send ‘inside info’ through a tweet.”
Anheuser-Busch plans to switch sports advertising tactics, targeting specific beer brands with demographics based on major sports. Bud Light to be linked to the NFL, while Budweiser will feature heavily in MLB advertising. No word on if Natural Ice will now be the Official Beer of Competitive Binge Drinking.
If they are going to start sending people to jail for 30 days for socking an opposing coach at a baseball game for 8-year-olds and then swinging a bat at people trying to break it up, then I just don’t know what baseball is anymore.
This isn’t what you would call the most eventful week in sports. In fact, tonight is one of the only nights all year when none of the major sports are playing regular-season games (yeah, there’s the whole Home Run Derby thing, but we’ll get to that later). I mean, I’m almost forced to lead with news about Brett Favre exhibiting to the Vikings that he is, in fact, capable of throwing a football. But who cares about that, when we can discuss a blind item about a married baseball player hitting on an intern?
(Do either of these two count as an “intern” of anything?)
Of course, it should come as no surprise that there are some athletes out there running around on their wives. But, there’s nothing else going on so let’s try to figure this out. Our first clue is that the three most recent teams to make a trip to Houston were Washington, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. We should also assume that this player is somewhat famous, because why would somebody brag on Facebook about getting someone like Bobby Seay’s phone number? (That’s just as a hypothetical example.)
Our second clue, as mentioned in the blog post, is that the intern went to a “large, prominent university near his team’s hometown.” To me, the key here is “near.” That eliminates Pittsburgh in my mind (Pitt is, obviously, in Pittsburgh so the “near” part is out, and Penn State and West Virginia are too far away). Washington would make sense because the University of Maryland is close (and even UVA is somewhat nearby), but Detroit also fits the bill, with Ann Arbor just a short drive away. Since Ortiz had time to notify the mentors of the young lady in question about her behavior, and the Nats had just arrived in town on Thursday, I’m not sure this whole story would’ve had time to run its course with a Washington player. I’m leaning toward this being a member of the Tigers.
HOW-EVAHHHH (that’s a little Stephen A. for you), not accusing anyone of anything, but it’s interesting to note that Adam Dunn is a married father who happens to be from Houston and was there this weekend (and is the only member of the Nats anyone has ever heard of). Again, just stating facts.
Moving on, while the Cardinals were splitting a doubleheader with the Cubs in Chicago, St. Louis was hosting All-Star festivities that included the Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball Game. And it all almost didn’t happen. After the World took their turn at bat in the top of the first inning of the Futures Game, the game went into a rain delay…for four hours.
(If the rain delay went any longer, these two would’ve been old enough to play in the game.)
When things finally got back underway at about 6:30, it was decided that they’d only play seven innings. The World team rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the top of the final inning and went on to win 7-5. Then it was time for the main event.
The Celebrity Softball Game is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but never really makes for good viewing. Perhaps that’s because MTV set the bar so high with their Rock ‘N Jock games of the mid-’90s. Would it kill you to make Bill Bellamy and Dan Cortese honorary managers, MLB?
(I was a big Awayboys fan. Those Homeboys were just so infuriatingly smug.)
Now, I’ve only seen the highlight package shown on MLB.COM (the game will be shown on ESPN after the Home Run Derby tonight), but it appears as if the game might be able to overcome the hokey commentating of Gary Thorne and a contrived “umpire argument” by NL first baseman Bobby Knight with the notion of getting to watch Jenna Fischer and Annie Wersching play softball for an hour.
(We can only hope Jenna was wearing this during the game)
I’m not sure which team won, or who was on what team, but you know the game is a sham when Vince Coleman (The Juan Pierre of the ’80s) is homering off of Goose Gossage. I’d give Andy Richter and Nelly better odds of going yard than Coleman…oh wait, they both actually homered also. Ashanti apparently celebrated grounding into a fielder’s choice, and Shawn Johnson predictably did a floor routine to first base when Lee Smith walked her.
(Admit it, if you’re between the ages of 30 and 35, you had at least one of these in a card protector 20 years ago, and now it’s worth more as a heat source than as a collector’s item.)
While you count down the hours until you can see Billy Bob Thornton turn into an RBI machine, here are some links to get you through the day:
• Manny Acta’s All-Star break has just become indefinite, as he’s been fired as manager of the Nationals. When Jason Marquis has won half as many games as your entire team has to this point, that’s probably grounds for getting dismissed.
• Dustin Pedroia is going to skip the All-Star Game to spend time with his wife Kelli, who is having some troubles with her pregnancy. Luckily, there was a member of the Rays available for Joe Maddon to pick for the team. And while Carlos Pena is a nice pick and all (he leads the league in homers), the AL now has only one true second baseman on its roster (Aaron Hill’s going to play the whole game?).
• The CHICAGO TRIBUNE has a photo essay of Cubs who have had bizarre injuries, in honor of Ryan Dempster, who broke his toe hopping over the dugout railing the other day. Beware of clicking on #10. I had forgotten about that one, and wish I hadn’t been reminded.
• Let’s give it up for the hot mom who made a spectacular diving play on a ground ball in foul territory at the Giants game in San Francisco yesterday:
• The Derby is really the only thing going in the world of sports tonight, and we should all remember that it might not exist if not for Mark Scott, the broadcaster who came up with the idea back in 1959, when he produced and hosted the syndicated show Home Run Derby — a weekly head-to-head contest featuring two MLB sluggers. The show (which was rerun on ESPN and now is on DVD) is cool, if for no other reason than it’s one of the only ways for people from my generation to actually see footage of guys like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays swinging the bat. It was only on for one year because Scott died from a heart attack in 1960. Here’s part of an episode featuring Aaron and Duke Snider:
• Ana Ivanovic is appearing in the August issue of VOGUE, and one photo has been leaked (what’s up with the huge white border?):
That sound you heard in New York last night were league officials and ABC executives quietly weeping into their gin and tonics while watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Because what they were watching was the one thing they didn’t need: a Los Angeles Lakers blowout. For the casual fan, the 100-75 drubbing of the Orlando Magic just confirmed what they already knew, that this series is a letdown after the hype of Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James, and the Lakers are going to crush the upstart Magic.
Sure, it was close…for a little over a quarter. The Magic did have a five-point lead early in the second quarter, and then the roof collapsed. This is what happens when a team that relies on three-point shooting has a sub-par shooting game (going 8-for-23 from beyond the arc). Without having to fear the Magic from the outside, the Lakers could double and triple-team Dwight Howard, a form of kryptonite that even Superman couldn’t overcome, going 1-for-6 and scoring just 12 points.
So while Howard struggled, Kobe was superb, scoring 40 points while coming close to a triple-double. He had 12 points in the second quarter as the Lakers established their dominance, and was able to create opportunities for Pau Gasol and the rest of his supporting cast. And with Phil Jackson being 43-0 in series where his team wins the opening game, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to be sweating through his Men’s Wearhouse coat.
But if the Magic need any inspiration, they only need to look to the Stanley Cup (assuming they get Versus in central Florida). Facing a 2-0 deficit against the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rallied to tie the series after a 4-2 win in Game 4. Which is especially impressive since they managed to turn an early lead into a 2-1 hole in the second period, which could have easily crippled a lesser team.
And in what can only be seen as a good sign for the Penguins, Sidney Crosby had his first goal of the series, while Evgeni Malkin added a goal and an assist. So now we basically have a best-of-three series starting tomorrow night in Detroit. While the Red Wings are still probably going to win the series, at least the Penguins have made it interesting.
Finally, let’s tip our hat to Randy Johnson, who became the first pitcher since Tom Seaver in 1985 to get his 300th victory in his first attempt thanks to the Giants’ 5-1 victory over the Nationals. Thank you for sparing us of the daily update on the ESPN crawl and live game updates ruining our PBA Tour broadcasts on Wednesday nights on ESPN2. The Giants are planning a pregame celebration before their next home game to congratulate Johnson on his 300 career wins - all four of them with San Francisco.
The French Open women’s singles final is set, with Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova taking each other on in an all-Russian final. In terms of eye candy, this isn’t exactly the Maria Sharapova vs. Ana Ivanovic Australian Open final from last year.
Calvin Borel isn’t just confident that he’s going to win the Belmont Stakes on Mine That Bird to win the jockey Triple Crown, he’s guaranteeing it. (At least that’s what we think he said with molasses-thick drawl.) If he does pull this off, does this mean he gets put out to stud?
LeBron, here’s your slap on the wrist: the NBA fines King James $25,000 for bailing on the post-game press conference after the Cavs’ Game 6 loss to the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals. Plus, you made David Stern cry. How does that feel, LeBron.
You want Dontrelle Willis to succeed in his comeback with the Tigers, but then something like this happens: in 2-1/3 innings against the Red Sox yesterday, Willis gave up five runs without allowing a hit, walking five and hitting a batter.
Just when you thought that it couldn’t get worse for the New York Mets than getting swept by the Pirates, it also turns out that Jose Reyeshas a torn hamstring.
John Raines, a substitute teacher and athletic trainer at Sussex Central High in Delaware, has been arrested and charged with “inappropriately touching a student-athlete while treating her injury and threatening to prevent her from playing her sport when she tried to stop his advances.” Which is bad enough, but even worse when considering he’s the second faculty member arrested on sex crimes in the past two days and the third within a year.
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has selected ESPN’s Chris Berman to introduce him before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and PRO FOOTBALL TALK wonders if that’s such a great idea. (Seriously, was Jim Kelly busy?)
Former Tulsa football player Neal Sweeney apparently got into a business dispute with the wrong person, as it ended up with him being shot dead at his fuel sales company. Police have arrested the person they believe is the triggerman, and hope this leads to further breaks in the case.
Maurice Neal, a linebacker for the Utah Utes, has been arrested in connection with a bar fight where he took out two men. Shouldn’t Utah be the last place that a bar fight should be happening?
A few days ago, the WALL STREET JOURNAL ran an article contemplating the virtual impossibility of beating Rafael Nadal at the French Open, and you can understand why. He was chasing his record fifth-straight title at Roland Garros, where he had never lost a match. His career record on clay 150-5. At the French Open, Nadal was pretty much a one-man wrecking crew.
But apparently, Robin Soderling doesn’t read the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Which isn’t that shocking, since he’s Swedish and all. But what the 23rd seed lacks in financial media acumen, he makes up for with a powerful serve, which was far more important today as he beat Nadal in four sets in what the NEW YORK TIMES is calling “one of the biggest upsets in the long history of tennis.”
Hooligans: they aren’t just for soccer anymore! In what’s becoming a regular occurrence at the Australian Open, scores of ethnic Serbs and Croats have chosen a tennis match as the tableau to act out their anger in their centuries-old rivalry. The occasion on Friday was the third round match where Serbian Novak Djokovic beat Bosnian-born American Amer Delic. The SYDNEY HERALD SUN reports that at least 30 people were kicked out of Rod Laver Stadium, and one woman was knocked unconscious by a chair.
As you can imagine, alcohol was partially to blame. THE TIMES OF LONDON notes that the beer was flowing on the tennis grounds bright and early thanks to one of the tournament sponsors, always a guarantee to fuel bad blood. Let’s see: a bunch of drunken idiots hurling lawn chairs at each other until the cops show up to break it up? Sounds like every frat party I ever went to in college, except with the added bonus of racial strife and undercurrents of genocide.
Hey, readers! It’s time for another sublime SbB Clever Caption Contest!
And we figure to start your weekend right by sharing a snapshot of SbB fave Ana Ivanovic, as she gets in a little practice before the Aussie Open:
So, what could the slammin’ Serbian sweetie be pointing her finger at? Submit your suggestions into the comments section linked below. Winner will be announced in the end-of-the-day recap. And who knows - Ana just might peek in on the thread! (Provided she has excellent internet access Down Under. And she happens to be searching herself online.)