Armstrong: Charity As Shield Against Investigation

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the walls are finally closing in on Lance Armstrong. The bloodhound Federal investigator who forever tainted Barry Bonds, Jeff Novitzky, is now on Armstrong’s trail and by all indications, it isn’t going to end well for the cyclist.

Lance Armstrong rips Tony Kornheiser on Twitter

(Armstrong’s Barry Bonds-esque prickly personality fueling investigation?)

In order to nail Armstrong to the floorboards as a PEDs user, Novitzky is following the money trail to Armstrong’s alleged PED operations over the years. Novitzky’s case against the cyclist centers on two key accusations:

1) Armstrong assisted in secretly diverting money from former cycling team sponsor U.S. Postal Service to fund a PEDs operation for himself and teammates.
2) Armstrong assisted in secretly selling professional cycles made by the Trek company that were intended for his teammates to fund a PEDs operation for himself and teammates. (Floyd Landis accusation.)

Armstrong has already repeatedly denied involvement of such activity, but recently was caught in a lie about his role on the U.S. Postal Service team by the NEW YORK TIMES.

Armstrong claimed last week that he had zero role in the management of the U.S.P.S. team, that he was a mere employee who only followed orders. But the NYT turned up evidence to the contrary, revealing that Armstrong had been given a significant equity stake in the company that owned the U.S.P.S. team and that the cyclist was also partners with a company called Capital Sports Management.

Capital Sports & Entertainment’s Web site says it had direct dealings with the Postal Service when it sponsored the team. “In its role as manager, C.S.E. handled all aspects of this legendary professional cycling team,” including an $18 million annual budget, the Web site said.

If Armstrong has nothing to hide, why did he misrepresent his business interest in the U.S.P.S. team? The U.S.P.S. contradiction looks very bad for Armstrong, and that wasn’t what Floyd Landis recently accused him of!

Worse yet is another defense Armstrong rolled out against the investigation last week to reporters in France.

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Speed Read: Hey Kids! The Vick Circus Is In Town!

I know you thought Thursday would never come, but it’s here. And yes, I told you that if you were good, I’d take you to the Cirque du Vick, that dramatic mix of circus arts and occasional football plays scheduled for tonight at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s Michael Vick’s return to the NFL, making this not just another exhibition game no one will watch, but must-see entertainment. Hey, I don’t make the rules. I just observe.

And there’s plenty of excitement in store, including a pro-Vick march and rally by the NAACP, possible disruption by PETA and other anti-Vick factions, and of course the always-reliable Philly fans themselves (hey, who threw that brick!?). Unfortunately, the ride depicted in the photo above left and in the video below will not be available. The guy in a Vick jersey riding a puppy is either a tragic coincidence, or an example of a man who majored in Irony and wants to put that degree to use for once.

The YouTube description says it was shot at an amusement park in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and that’s all I know about it. Except that what he’s doing is just wrong on so many levels. But it fits right in with the festivities here on Michael Vick Day, so climb aboard, kids! Just don’t let Steeler Poodle see you.

Steeler Poodle

(Steeler Poodle sez: “Big Ben is innocent!”)

Eagles head coach Andy Reid has said that Vick will play with the first team at some point during the first three quarters tonight, but in what capacity and for how long is still shrouded in mystery. Andy, you sly minx. Presenting Vick tonight after only two weeks of practice serves no actual physical purpose, since he’ll be sitting out at least the first five games of the regular season. But by throwing him into the mix tonight you get the majority of the controversy out of the way early; like a first kiss. But beware, Mike; Philly fans like to slip in the tongue.

It’ll be Vick’s first appearance in an NFL game since Dec. 31, 2006; which was also at Lincoln Financial. And he’ll start today in federal bankruptcy court, which is always fun. Then it’s home to feed the dogs, and then on to the game. Yeah, it’s unknown if Vick has truly seen the light and is genuinely remorseful over his dog-killing past. But what we do know is that all the publicity surrounding his incarceration hasn’t helped dogs one bit. The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has reported 400 investigations of dogfighting operations so far this year; almost twice as many as in all of 2008.

But in case any of you fans are actually interested in the game, please note that former Eagles three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tra Thomas returns to Philadelphia for the first time since joining the Jaguars. And there may even be a Brian Westbrook sighting tonight, but don’t expect to see him for long. If you’re not a local, the game will be shown on NFL Network tonight at 11 p.m. (ET), and again on Friday at 4 p.m. (ET).

Meanwhile, at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the MLB Players’ Union got a favorable ruling on the infamous 104-player PED list, and may soon have it back in hand where it will be carried forthwith to the nearest shredder.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that agents had no right to seize baseball’s anonymous drug-testing results from 2003. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for the players’ union, which has argued for years to have the results of the 104 players who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 returned.

“This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the 9-2 decision.

The records, seized by government agents in April 2004 as part of the BALCO investigation into Barry Bonds, has been the subject of legal wrangling ever since. If the case doesn’t end up in the Supreme Court, the list will be returned to the players’ union, where it will presumably be destroyed. The court ruled that federal agents trampled on players’ protections against unreasonable searches and seizures in taking the list, which included Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, who were among those whose names were leaked.

The American Defenders of New Hampshire were supposed to play the New Jersey Jackals in a Can-Am pro baseball game on Tuesday, but there was one problem: They faced a lockout. But it isn’t the kind of lockout you’re used to hearing about; the City of Nashua locked the stadium because the team was behind in their rent. The Defenders — formerly known as the Nashua Pride — owe fire, police and rent bills totaling about $45,000 according to mayor Donnalee Lozeau. And to make sure the teams didn’t scale the fence and play the game anyway, Lozeau had city workers park a tractor over home plate. This is true. Fun fact: The Defenders team president is Dan Duquette, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox. They’re now on the road, but as of today, the stadium impasse has not been resolved.

Links to read while sharing Pop Tarts with your gorilla:

  • Above is a photo of a very toasted Billy Gillispie, who was arrested by Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, police early this morning for DUI. Yep, that’s the former Kentucky Wildcats basketball coach, who was fired in a contract dispute this past March and has since sued the university for breach of contract. Gillispie and a passenger were driving a white 2009 Mercedes with Texas tags around 2:45 a.m. on US 127 when someone reported seeing the car driving erratically. Gillispie was arrested and charged with DUI, and reportedly refused to take a breathalizer or blood alcohol test. Gillispie had also been arrested for DUI in Oklahoma in 1999.
  • Allen Iverson may be a Grizzly before you know it. Memphis confirmed that they’ve made him an offer, but will AI go through with it? I can’t picture him in Memphis; it doesn’t seem like a good fit. Iverson touring Graceland is just too bizarre.
  • Not sure if this happened before or after David Ortiz’s walkoff home run gave the Red Sox a 3-2 win over the White Sox on Wednesday, but Boston released Brad Penny, who was 7-8. Penny, 1-6 over his past 11 starts, is working on the one-year, $5 million contract he signed during the offseason.

  • In naming Shaun Hill as the team’s No. 1 quarterback on Tuesday, 49ers coach Mike Singletary praised him in the way that only Mike Singletary can. In other words, it’s our baffling NFL quote of the Year so far: “There’s nothing pretty about Shaun. Everything’s ugly: His drop … his release … all these things. But what’s beautiful about him is his heart. I want to go down with a guy like that.” Season tickets still available!
  • Was watching Brad Cooper on “The Tonight Show” last night, and he almost revealed who will be taking up the Mr. T role in the new “A Team” movie that’s on the way to theaters (Cooper will play Faceman, with Liam Neeson as Hannibal). Cooper wouldn’t spill the other big role, but according to several sources, BA Baracus will be played by Rampage Jackson.

Will you watch the Eagles-Jaguars game on NFL Network because of Vick?

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Week In Review: Pitino Pays $3,000 For Abortion

Rick Pitino’s reputation has taken a huge hit, as the Louisville b-ball coach impregnated the woman who’s been trying to extort him, then paid $3,000 for the abortion.

Rick Pitino Karen Sypher

And now Karen Sypher says her marriage to Cardinals equipment manager Tim was all just a sneaky plot by Pitino to keep an eye on her. But hey, don’t blame Rick - blame 9/11!

• The release party for the new Miami Dolphins cheerleaders bikini calendar was quite the spectacle.

Jay Mariotti denies that he’s going to be writing for the Chicago Tribune. Can’t wait to see Jay’s debut column in the Trib on September 1st!

Manny Ramirez gets a memorable reception from San Francisco Giants fans - the same kind of reception that Barry Bonds used to get everywhere else except in the Bay Area.

• Engaged Malibu fashion designer Ali Kay may have encouraged Reggie Miller’s unwanted advances by sending the ex-NBA star photos of herself in bed & in a bikini. At least Ali’s still pretty good at making clothes.

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Manny Being Booed By Bonds-Loving Giants Fans

• Suspected steroid abuser Manny Ramirez gets a rude reception from San Francisco Giants fans - the same Giants fans who were so passionate in supporting suspected steroid abuser Barry Bonds.

Manny Ramirez Giants fan sign

• 49ers coach Mike Singletary makes a mountain out of a molehill, forcing QB Alex Smith to watch the rest of practice from high above.

Bobby Bowden would like to share his prostate problems with you.

• EA sports donates advanced copies of Madden 10 to a U.S. submarine crew who are shipping out before the game’s official release date.

• Would it really kill the NHL to let Jim Balsillie move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, Ontario?

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Toto, I Don’t Think We’re In Mannywood Anymore

So here’s the highlight of last night’s Giants-Dodgers game, I suppose. Fans in the AT&T bleachers are really letting Manny Ramirez have it: “Manny’s on steroids,” “Manny takes women’s hormones,” the stuff you might expect. One woman, wearing a Dodger-blue baby bonnet, has a sign that reads, “It’s a boy.” Then one particular guy screams at Manny, “Are you even a man!?

Manny abuse

(Love you, Manny! Signed, the guy in the Giants No. 22 jersey)

To which Manny turns, points at the guy and then grabs his crotch. Although he denied it afterward, the fans were in Manny’s head big-time (and it sure was spacious; lots of room for bookshelves). So today the Bay Area media is writing about how the Giants-Dodgers rivalry is back, how important this series is, and why there were so many fights in the bleachers (there were).

But I was there as well, and here’s my take: Giants fans are among the biggest hypocrites in sports.

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Aaron Has Had It With You Kids And Your Drugs

No one is quite sure why Hank Aaron suddenly has turned from magnanimous, graying Ambassador of Tact to crusading, get-off-my lawn Gran Torino, but I for one welcome our new anti-PEDs overlord. Maybe this is just a function of old age, or perhaps there is just so much any man can take. Any man who used to be the all-time leader in career homers, that is.

Hank Aaron

Jeff Schultz of the ATLANTA-JOURNAL CONSTITUTION chatted with Aaron by phone on Sunday from Cooperstown, where the former Braves’ home run king was attending the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. And it was in that interview when the subject of home run records, Barry Bonds and steroids came to a boil, with Aaron getting very candid. Read more…

SF Giants Principal Owner Sue Burns Dies At 58

One of fans’ biggest complaints about modern pro sports is the increasing disconnect between teams and fans. A generation (and more) ago, sports teams were family-run businesses whose operations were more a labor of love than an investment opportunity.  It wasn’t necessarily a better time - the “good ol” days rarely were - but it was most certainly less complicated and, often, more straightforward.

Sue Burns San Franciso Giants

The number of teams in sports whose owners came from that older mindest have dwindled in recent years, but several still remain, mostly in the NFL - the Rooneys and McCaskeys come to mind. One such team in baseball was the San Francisco Giants, led by principal owner Sue Burns, who lost a brief battle with cancer last night at the all-too-young age of 58.

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Speed Read: How To Get A DUI At 5 Miles Per Hour

The NBA Finals are over. The Stanley Cup’s been handed out. The US Open is already forgotten. So now what? Baseball? There’s still four months of that. The NBA Draft? That’s going to dominate the headlines tomorrow. A drunk guy trying to drive 40 miles home in his golf cart because his family left him behind at the course? Now we’re talkin’!

golf cart

The MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL has the tale of a 47-year-old man (who for some reason has been unidentified) who was abandoned at the Kettle Hills Golf Course in suburban Milwaukee by a group of people he referred to as his “uncles.” And when you’re 10 beers into your day, taking the cart home seems like a great idea, even if would take you a week and a half to get there. Luckily the guy was run down by the cops in an extremely low speed chase about a mile from the course. Here’s a map of the 2009 “Tour de Beast Light”:

golf cart route

(In the guy’s defense, he thought he was playing “Tron”)

Originally, when the cop car blew his horn and flashed his lights at the guy, he just pulled over to the shoulder and kept right on driving, as if the only thing he was doing wrong was driving in a lane instead of the shoulder. He eventually pulled over and was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and for blowing a stop sign on the corner of Route 167 and Route 175.

There’s no word on the whereabouts of the “uncles,” who clearly were not pleased with their nephew for some reason. It appears as if things might have gotten well out of hand before he decided to flee, as the police were called to the course before the crew even finished up their round.

Speaking of deluded men under the influence, it’s not exactly news that Sammy Sosa was juicing all those years, and still not news that Ryne Sandberg says he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Personally, I think so many guys were ‘roiding it up that the now-sullied stars of the era were still the best players of their generation even if they were artificially enhanced (and pitchers were doing it too). So I’d probably be OK with guys like McGwire, Bonds, and Sosa getting into the Hall someday. But I might be changing my mind on Sosa now that Darren Rovell has discovered that Sammy had his jersey sleeves tapered so that his arms would look bigger:

Sammy Sosa jersey tapered sleeves

Courtesy of Rovell’s article:

CNBC confirmed through a source that Sosa did indeed ask for the elastic arm tapering for at least the 2002 season. The source said that he could not remember another player that asked for this specification.

“I don’t know why it would be tapered like that other than it being a purely cosmetic change so that people could see his muscles,” said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions. “There doesn’t seem to be any other reason why he’d do it.”

Oh man, that’s just kinda sad. At least Bonds and Big Mac had the courtesy to just take some drugs and mash. Who knows what all Sosa was doing. We now know that he was willing to not only shoot up, but also cork bats AND make his jersey tighter. I wouldn’t be shocked if he somehow found a way to sneak some sort of springy superball into play during his at-bats.

Which (alleged) roider has done himself the most PR damage over the past 5 years?

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And now for some links for you to peruse while Ricky Rubio looks for someone in Sacramento to throw the ball to:

• Texas won Game 2 of the College World Series final to force a deciding game tonight.

•  The DELAWARE COUNTY DAILY TIMES’ Anthony Sanfilippo says that NBC has nixed the idea of putting Alex Ovechkin and the Caps in one of the Winter Classic games next year because the Caps-Rangers series drew poor ratings this year.

• The Red Sox beat the Nationals 11-3 last night in D.C. in front of the usual 5,000 or so Nats fans. And, oh yeah, about 36,000 Sox fans.

• This might be the classiest video you see all day — a Yankee fan getting in a fistfight with a Marlin fan in front of his young daughter, who is now scarred for life (thanks BBTF):

• The Bills are mired in a decade of futility, but the people of Buffalo are still snapping up season tickets in near-record numbers.

• ESPN doesn’t televise every Manny Ramirez at-bat when he’s playing for the Dodgers, so why are they doing it every time he hits for Albuquerque? Are they really going to do this every day?

• The 76ers have become the latest team to try and forget about the last few years by bringing back their old-school logo. If this is the first step toward the rebirth of the Bullets, I’m all for it.

76ers logo

• The Spurs’ deal for Richard Jefferson may seem like a steal, but BASKETBALL VALUE (courtesy of TRUE HOOP) notes that the Bucks were actually a better team when Jefferson wasn’t on the floor.

• Swimming’s governing body, FINA (where’s the “s”?), is alarmed that world records have been getting crushed lately by swimmers wearing polyurethane-covered suits. Their solution to the problem? Just keep allowing the suits at the world championships.

• Hey, if Tony La Russa’s “done a lot of research on it,” it’s good enough for the Royals’ Trey Hillman to try out. That would of course be batting your pitcher eighth, which Zack Greinke did last night. The problem is that #9 hitter Mitch Maier hit like a pitcher, going 0-for-3 with 3 Ks.

• YOU BEEN BLINDED has video of ESPN’s fantasy guy Matthew Berry f-bombing it up in a faux-interview with a sports comedy duo called 12 ANGRY MASCOTS. He tries waaaaay too hard, but delivers a few decent lines. Not sure how ESPN feels about Berry dropping the phrase “Kosher C***block” on YouTube.

• Did you think last August that Michael Phelps was going to be rendered mostly irrelevant already, while Shawn Johnson would be the one going to every big film premiere? Here’s Shawn at the Transformers premiere:

Shawn Johnson

Week In Review: No Steroids in MLB, Why Watch?

• Major League Baseball without steroids is like porn without the silicone.

Monster Implants In Porn Like Steroids In Baseball

Just don’t blog about the subject with Raul Ibanez.

Rodney Harrison doesn’t like how the NFL has become “soft and pansy“.

• A Fox News morning show lambasts MTV for Bruno’s ass-ault on Eminem - then does a segment with a Fox reporter doing basically the same thing to a lingerie football player.

Tim Floyd takes off from the Trojans. What, and leave the Song Girls?

• Soon-to-be newlyweds Kendra Wilkinson & Eagles WR Hank Baskett are expecting a baby. On the other side of the spectrum, Barry Bonds’ wife demands a divorce.

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NBC Ices Stanley Cup Viewings @ Det, Pitt Arenas

• NBC puts a stop to Stanley Cup Finals viewings at the Joe Louis & Mellon Arenas - because it’s shaving nearly a point off of their local Nielsen ratings.

Red Wings Penguins

• Deadline? The Vikings never said anything about a Brett Favre deadline.

• Nice to see Ozzie Guillen back in ranting ‘n’ raving form.

• Don’t worry, Barry Bonds, at least your wife still supports you through these troubles times. Um, OK, maybe not.

• Oh boy! The MLB Draft is on TV tonight! It’s not like there’s anything else on worth watching.

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