Report: U.S. Soccer To Extend Bradley’s Contract

In a report today on the coaching situation at Fulham of England’s Premier League, Daniel Orstein of the BBC noted that U.S. World Cup soccer coach Bob Bradley will likely keep his job as coach of the American national team.

Bob Bradley

Bradley reportedly had been under consideration for the Fulham head coaching position.

From Ornstein of the BBC: Read more…

Speed Read: Eagles Take Gamble On Michael Vick

In a lot of ways, the Michael Vick saga is coming to an end today. In a couple of hours, the Eagles will announce that they have signed Vick to a contract, and the dogfighting thing will be behind us, and he’ll just be another NFL player again.

Michael Vick drinking wine

Sure, there will be Rachel Nichols following his every move at practice for a while, then everyone will get all excited when he breaks off a 14-yard run from the Wildcat formation in a preseason game. But then he’ll fade away for a while as he serves his suspension, and by the time he is eligible to play in week six or so, he’s just going to a backup who comes on for a gimmick play every once in a while.

Philly was one of a long list of teams that reportedly had no interest in Vick as he was seeking a new job. In fact, many theorized that he’d have to resort to signing with the new UFL to have a chance to play. After all, what NFL team was going to be willing to absorb the PR hit, be willing to wait out his suspension, and be able to actually use him? The Eagles seemed unlikely on all fronts. They’ve already got two decent backup quarterbacks in Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley.

UFL logo

(You know things don’t look good for this league when they’re disappointed that they didn’t get the dog killer.)

So why add Vick to a team that doesn’t really need him? Andy Reid talks about wanting to give the guy a second chance, and even mentions the plight of his own children as a factor in the decision. The Eagles did use DeSean Jackson in the Wildcat on occasion last year, so maybe they want to expand that facet of their offense. Maybe they’ll try to turn him into a receiver, kick returner, or both. But can he learn to do those things at an NFL level in a matter of weeks?

None of that seems important right now, as most of the attention will be focused on the moral implications of signing a guy who just got out of prison two weeks ago for killing dogs. The PHILLY INQUIRER’s John Gonzalez sums up the struggle, and gives a very reasonable argument in favor of giving Vick another chance:

If you’ve already dug in and joined the anti-Vick camp, I won’t blame you or try to change your mind. People love dogs. I’m one of them. I’m a sucker for just about any animal, but the ones that roll over and play fetch and slobber all over me - even when I’m not at my best (which is most of the time) - are by far my favorite. What Vick did to those dogs was cruel and terrible and indefensible.

But I’m not going to kill the Eagles for signing him, and I’m not going to attack Vick or ascribe some pejorative label to the guy. I don’t know the man. I don’t know why he got involved with dogfighting. But I do know that he went to prison, and he lost his job, and he’s been beaten up quite a bit over the last two years. He’s been beaten up almost endlessly. And for good reason. Don’t get it twisted, he deserved his punishment - all of it. But after doing his time and losing almost everything he’d worked so hard to achieve, hasn’t he paid the price required of someone looking to purchase a second chance?

Ultimately, I think NFL fans will be OK with Vick. Everything he’s said and done recently indicates that he’s remorseful about what he did and that he’s committed to rebuilding his image. But for now, even the fans in Philly are split on this – a poll on PHILLY.COM shows that they are about 53-47 against signing Vick.

michael vick 60 minutes

As if it wasn’t bad enough that he was pelted with vomit and urine while attempting to take a corner kick at Azteca Stadium on Wednesday, word comes now that U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan played the entire game with the swine flu.

Landon Donovan

Ironically, Landon didn’t pick up the illness in Mexico, where the latest epidemic of the ol’ H1N1 originated. Instead, he got it from two staff members of the L.A. Galaxy, Donovan’s MLS team. The L.A. TIMES reports that the staff members picked it up during the Galaxy’s match with the New England Revolution in Foxboro. That’s right, Pats fans. Swine flu is just stewing in your stadium. Good luck with that, Brady.

Tom Brady, first day of training camp

(”So, if there’s swine flu on Bernard Pollard’s helmet…”)

Donovan admits that he felt crappy during Wednesday’s game, but chalked it up to the elevation and poor air quality in Mexico City. He is unlikely to play in the Galaxy’s home game tomorrow against Seattle, and more unlikely to ever come within 25 feet of David Beckham the rest of this season (which isn’t much of a change — he just has a medical reason now).

I suppose it’s shouldn’t be surprising if we hear of athletes starting to come down with the virus. MLB pitcher Vicente Padilla came down with it a couple of weeks ago, and as many as 1 million people nationwide have probably been infected at some point. While there is little danger of any serious repercussions (Donovan is sick, but nothing beyond your average flu bug), it could be devastating to a team if multiple players were to suffer from the illness at the same time. NFL teams in particular need to be careful, or at least plan on catching it the week they play the Lions.

swine flu

Michael Phelps is going to be just fine after he was involved in a car accident last night. The sack of 10 from White Castle? Sadly, they didn’t make it.

• BC and BU will play hockey at Fenway Park a week after the Winter Classic.

Rick Sutcliffe throws Jose Mesa under the bus for failing to hit somebody with a pitch 20 years ago. Sut just didn’t realize that the opposing batter needs to have “Vizquel” written on his back for Joe Table to plunk him.

Jeff Francoeur thinks the reason he’s going to look “like a clown” next year is these new batting helmets, and not his inevitable .285 on-base percentage.

new batting helmet

• Well, the Wrigley beer-tosser has been apprehended and he apologized publicly to Shane Victorino, the Cubs, and his own family. But not to the guy who took the fall for him and got tossed out. That’s like the main guy who needs an apology!

Adrian Beltre might want to reconsider his decision to not wear a cup, as he’s now on the DL because of the quite horrifying “bleeding testicle.” Yeah, you heard that right. He somehow played five innings after the injury.

• Quentin Richardson has been traded — for the fourth time this offseason. The T-Wolves sent him to Miami yesterday for Mark Blount. That means he has now been swapped for Darko Milicic, Zach Randolph, Sebastian Telfair, Mark Madsen, and now Blount. That’s a lot of headcases and one terrible dancer.

Royals great Willie Wilson has signed a one-day contract to start a game for the Kansas City T-Bones of the Independent League next week. Wilson apparently didn’t want to subject himself to something as embarrassing as appearing at an actual Royals game.

God knows what Bronson Arroyo was hopped up on last night when he threw a two-hit shutout against the Nationals.

•  The DAILY MAIL has a story today about Kirsty Gallacher, girlfriend of rugby player Paul Sampson, daughter of golfer Bernard Gallacher, and former Sky Sports personality. Just wanted to establish a sports-related reason to run this photo:

Kirsty Gallacher

Are you surprised that Michael Vick got an NFL job this year?

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Speed Read: T.O. Lobbies, Tweets For Mike Vick

When SbB held its first 30-day moratorium poll this past week, I was somewhat disappointed that there could be only one winner. And while the actual choice (who shall not be named) was fine enough, it meant that we were still going to have to talk about what Terrell Owens is doing.

TO and Michael Vick

And that, today, is apparently suggesting that Roger Goodell go spend some time in prison so that he knows what Michael Vick has been through. This in response to the idea floating around that Goodell plans to suspend Vick for four games as a condition for returning to the league. Ray Ratto thinks T.O. might have some ulterior motives, but that he appears to be genuine in his support for Vick. Now, about the suspension…well, I can’t put it nearly as eloquently as T.O. can (via FANHOUSE):

“I don’t think it’s really fair for him to be suspended four more games. That’s almost like kicking a dead horse in the ground.”

Well said, sir.

He’s also using Twitter to try and round up support for Vick, hoping that a groundswell of public sentiment will sway Goodell. I mean, it’s just like that whole thing over in Iran.

Oddly, T.O. has a bit of a point. Vick’s livelihood was taken away while he was in prison, so why would Goodell feel the need to tack on a token suspension that is the same length as one for a first violation of the league’s drug policy? I mean, if he really considered the prison time as separate from the league’s punishment, then you would think the suspension would be harsher, like a year or something. Otherwise, isn’t being out of the league for two years and going bankrupt serving the same purpose? I don’t think Goodell has to give him four games off to prove that the NFL doesn’t approve of dogfighters. I think that’s pretty well understood, considering you get in trouble for wearing your socks wrong in that league.

Michael Vick chased by dog

Don’t be fooled by that 5-0 win by Mexico over the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final yesterday at Giants Stadium. The Americans have been playing this entire tournament with a second-tier squad made up mostly of players with little international experience. The Mexicans, meanwhile, put a much better team out on the field, as was shown by their dominance throughout the tournament. And, while it was sad to see the U.S. team fall apart, the way Mexico dismantled our guys in the second half was quite a thing to watch (the game was scoreless at halftime). Get ready for goooooooooooools-a-plenty:

The U.S. was somewhat fortunate to advance this far, struggling to a tie with powerhouse Haiti and needing extra time to beat Panama. So a loss was to be expected, though the magnitude was larger than anyone thought. It’s the worst loss for the U.S. since 1985. Perhaps it was for the best that it was only on in English on the tiny Fox Soccer Channel.

If anything, this was a moral boost for the Mexicans going into the huge showdown on August 12th between the two countries in World Cup qualifying in Mexico City. None of the players the U.S. used yesterday are likely to play in that game, while a couple of Mexico’s players will probably see action. But I can’t imagine that this game is really going to have much impact on the qualifier. The NEW YORK DAILY NEWS’ Filip Bondy seems to think that the credibility the U.S. earned in games against Spain and Brazil is diminished by this result, but anyone who follows the sport closely (ie. everyone in the world besides Americans) knows that the U.S. lineup was a shell of the team that made waves in South Africa.

The NEW YORK TIMES seems to have grasped this, and notes that all of the goodwill Mexico earned yesterday could be lost if they can’t beat the Americans in August. The U.S. is 0-22-1 all-time in Mexico, but a win by the Americans would be devastating to the hosts, who are fourth in the qualifying group (only the top three automatically make the World Cup). The U.S. is currently in second place behind Costa Rica.

Mexico gold cup

• The Ravens were stunned by Derrick Mason’s retirement, so they went out and signed Drew Bennett to replace him. Bennett lasted all of two days before deciding to retire yesterday. You just aren’t meant to have wide receivers, Baltimore.

• Wait, who’s in first place in the NL Central? Oh yeah, it’s the team the Phillies are going to sweep in the first round in October.

Keith Olbermann says that Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose spoke for the first time in 20 years on Saturday in Cooperstown. Rose shows up every year to sign memorabilia on HOF weekend.

Sparky Anderson Pete Rose

• Ladbrokes is offering 100-1 odds that one of Roger Federer’s twin daughters will win Wimbledon by the age of 25. They’re five days old.

Dinara Safina: Really good at winning tournaments nobody cares about.

Lou Holtz took a Notre Dame alumni team over to Japan, where he coached them to a 19-3 win over the Japanese national team. No word on whether or not “Dr. Lou” made an appearance on Japanese television.

• MENTAL FLOSS challenges you to pick which hat 14 Hall of Famers wore to their induction.

Dwyane Wade is tweeting to Lamar Odom, trying to coax him down to Miami. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that a bag of Jolly Ranchers will do the trick.

candy

• A cricket player was struck by lightning in Brooklyn yesterday afternoon during a match. He’s listed in serious condition. The ghost of Gil Hodges has been brought in for questioning.

• Massive rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan met yesterday in, of all places, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. In other news, the Giants and Jets will play each other this year in Reykjavik.

• French president Nicolas Sarkozy can’t stand the heat. Literally. He collapsed while jogging yesterday in Paris, but he’s going to be just fine. Which means we can run this picture of his wife without any guilt:

Carla Bruni Sarkozy

 

What do you think of a rumored 4-game suspension for Michael Vick?

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USA: “Can We Watch USA-Mexico?” NBC: “Que?”

With the USMNT’s highly improbable run in last month’s Confederations Cup in South Africa, interest has ramped up in America for the 2010 World Cup. Now all of a sudden, people know of more players on the team than just Landon Donovan - even if it’s just to yell “WHERE THE HELL WAS DEMPSEY?” at the television in order to give the (false) impression that you have a clue what’s going on.

Clint Dempsey Landon Donovan
(Success for the national team? Who the hell would want to watch that?)

So with a critical World Cup qualifier with rivals Mexico coming up next month, it stands to reason that rights-holders NBC would want to put the game on as many television sets in the US as possible. But, um, about that… hope you like Telemundo!

Read more…

Speed Read: Manny Being Manny Being Ejected

The Manny Ramirez Traveling Salvation Show hit a snag last night in New York, thanks to an umpire with a hair trigger. Well, it’s hard to call anything about John Hirschbeck’s fifth-inning ejection of Ramirez “hair trigger,” since it took roughly 15 minutes seconds from when Hirschbeck rung Ramirez up on a called third strike to when he tossed Ramirez from the game for throwing his helmet, bat, elbow guard, cleats, socks and jock strap into the air in disgust.

Manny didn’t seem to think it was that big of a deal, since “I was playing only five innings, so I was leaving anyway.” Which came as news to Dodgers manager Joe Torre. Not that it mattered much - with Ramirez going 2 for 4 with three RBI and Clayton Kershaw throwing six shutout innings, the Dodgers cruised to an 8-0 win over the Mets. But it did give Los Angeles residents driven nutty by the Michael Jackson Circus a chance to remember the other, ridiculously overblown media circus in town.

If you are a college football fan who hates the current BCS system, you had reason to celebrate yesterday as Sen. Orrin Hatch ordered up a can of whoop-ass with a side of hash on the football elite during a congressional hearing about the college football playoff system, and the Senate cafeteria was all out of hash. Specifically, he said that “the Justice Department ought to be looking at this” because he believes the system violates antitrust laws.

(Play the BCS off, Keyboard Hatch.)

Which is great, until you realize that Hatch was the only member of the subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights to actually attend any significant portion of the hearing. But there were plenty of junior staffers there, fresh out of college and probably the only people outside of Hatch and Barack Obama who care about college football in Washington D.C.

Also, you have to understand that Hatch is from Utah, where the majority of the state is still steaming about the undefeated Utes being left out of the BCS Title Game last season, so there’s certainly an element of “playing it up for the home constituants” going on here. So you basically had Hatch grilling the President of Nebraska University, who was acting on behalf of the BCS Backers, which is kind of sad when you realize that Nebraska is roughly one zillion percent less likely to play in a BCS Title Game in our lifetimes than Utah.

Meanwhile, you might remember a small link we had yesterday about U.S. National Soccer Team midfielder Michael Bradley being suspended following a red card and subsequent confrontation with a referee at the end of the team’s shocking 2-0 win over Spain in the Confederations Cup. And it turns out that he will be suspended for three games, although it’s perhaps the weakest three-game suspension in sports history.

Michael Bradley

Ever get mad when a pitcher receives a five-game suspension for his part in a brawl, which only means that his next start gets pushed back one game? This one is even worse. FIFA has suspended Bradley for three games, all right - three games that he was never going to play in. The suspension will be served during the group play stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which is convenient for Bradley since he’s not on the roster for the tournament.

Which means that Bradley will be available for the U.S. next game that matters, a World Cup qualifying match at Mexico on August 12. Somewhere in Mexico City, a Mexican senator is preparing a special committee hearing.

Other sports news that happened while you were fighting for the rights of busty mannequins everywhere, especially if they turn into Kim Catrall:

  • DEUCE OF DAVENPORT knows that the only thing better than Erik Estrada drunkenly butchering “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during a Cubs game is him giving an interview in the booth during the game that somehow works in child porn and Ron Jeremy. A master class in awkwardness in two parts: First the singing…
  • …and then the interview:

  • Lance Armstrong has moved to within a second of the yellow jersey after his Astana team cleaned up during a team stage during the Tour de France. Which I’m sure no one in America cares about, but it has to be irritating the French more than a canceled Jerry Lewis movie marathon, and that’s always a good thing.
  • When playing for Russian side CSKA three years ago, Yuri Zhirkov didn’t take the advice of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to learn English. Which is a problem, since Abramovich signed Zhirkov to a a huge deal on Monday, and the winger will have to deal with struggling to communicate with his teammates.
  • When GM Joe Dumars fired Michael Curry as head coach of the Detroit Pistons, he claimed that the team needed a more experienced hand at the helm. Which makes it curious why he eventually decided to give Cavaliers assistant John Kuester his first crack at an NBA head coaching job. Couldn’t have anything to do with both Doug Collins and Avery Johnson bailing from the gig? But Kuester has been a head coach at Boston…University, which is close to the Celtics, right?
  • Another depressing sign of the economic times: the NBA salary cap will decrease next year for only the second time in 26 years. The cap number next year is $57.7 million, down almost one million dollars from last year. So when Dwayne Wade lashes out at the Miami Heat for failing to land a big free agent again, they have a ready-made excuse.
  • Reports are circulating that Mike Krzyzewski is going to be coming back to coach Team USA at the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics. Because as he showed in Beijing, he clearly could handle coaching with limited talent.
  • If you had forgotten about it in the wake of the Michael Jackson Media Overload, just a gentle reminder about swine flu: IT’S GOING TO KILL US ALL! Swimmer Kate Ziegler had to pull out of the U.S. Nationals with swine flu, which is also sweeping through the World University Games in Belgrade. If Ron Weasley can’t use his Muggle magic to stave off the swine flu, no one is safe.
  • In case you were wondering if there was any bad blood between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir ahead of their heavyweight title unification rematch, CAGEWRITER answers with a resounding “yep” after watching the two trade barbs during the “Countdown to UFC 100″ on SPIKE. Also, Lesnar thinks the referee of the first match is an idiot, and really, really hates doors.

  • Meanwhile, if you were curious, UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is still insane. He’s not crashing an SUV with his name and picture on it after a wild car chase this time, but SPORTS RUBBISH says he is dry humping unsuspecting reporters during interviews.

  • Interesting news about “aspiring rapper” Keith Norfleet, the ex-boyfriend of Sahel Kazemi. Not only was he the person who picked her up after she was popped for a DUI in Steve McNair’s car, but he also emailed a local newspaper the following: “Pretty interesting news about our golden boy McNair…You would be pretty amazed at the fact of who he was actually with, which I really don’t think his wife would like it too much either.”

Which story do you want to go away and never hear about again?

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Speed Read: Mo Saves #500 As Mets Melt Again

Back in April of 1996, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said of Mariano Rivera: “That guy, he should be in a higher league. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” At the time, Rivera had zero Major League saves and the Mets and Yankees had never played each other in a game that counted. Last night, Mo earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets, and it will be just as memorable for what he did at the plate than what he did on the mound.

Mariano Rivera

Rivera came in to pitch in the 8th inning last night with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Met runner in scoring position. After striking out Omir Santos, the Yankee lineup ended up getting to Rivera’s spot in the order. And Mo did something he had never ever done in his Major League career — reach base. Not only that, he earned an RBI for his bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez.

Earlier in the inning, the Yankees had engaged in some shenangians, sending Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle for Rivera when Derek Jeter was up with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. This led to maybe the only time in history in which Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan have made tons of sense. There’s no way Rivera’s coming out of the game, with the Yankees leading 3-2, yet Jerry Manuel initially chose to have K-Rod pitch to Jeter with a base open. Knowing, mind you, that there was a 0% chance that Joe Girardi would lift Rivera for a pinch-hitter. Morgan and Phillips stopped just short of calling Manuel a moron for throwing Jeter a strike on the first pitch. After two balls out of the zone, the Mets finally gave Jeter the free pass. Rivera, of course, strolled to the plate, and was promptly walked (after he fought off a tough 2-2 pitch).

Rivera is still #2 all-time in saves to Trevor Hoffman, but will go down in history as the best closer ever because of his ridiculous 0.77 ERA (in 117+ innings) and 34 saves in the postseason. Plus, he’s now the only closer in MLB history with 500 saves who has been walked by another pitcher (Hoffman has no walks in 35 plate appearances).

It’s only fitting that the Mets were instrumental in all of this, as they keep finding new and interesting ways to fail against their cross-town rivals.

Luis Castillo

Speaking of fail, a little league game broke out in Arizona yesterday when the D-Backs hosted the Angels. Not only did Gary Matthews pull of a straight steal of home (which the media apparently thinks isn’t as “scrappy” as Jacoby Ellsbury doing it), but Arizona’s defense in the top of the fifth inning would’ve shamed Morris Buttermaker.

Diamondbacks fan

Let us count the ways:

1) Shortstop Stephen Drew lobbed a perfect strike to first baseman Mark Reynolds on a routine grounder. And Reynolds dropped the ball. Just dropped it. It was so bad, it actively looked like he was either trying to drop the ball or had never played baseball in his life.

2) Maicer Izturis lined a shot directly to right fielder Justin Upton. This ball also had the gall to hit Upton right in the glove, and he too made a complete mess out of it, as it bounded away from him and rolled to the wall.

3) The next batter, Bobby Abreu hit a ground ball directly at second baseman Felipe Lopez, who fielded the ball and threw him out. Unfortunately, the ball Lopez fielded was imaginary and the actual ball was somewhere in right-center.

This disaster came just one day after Arizona played a bunt by Erick Aybar into a t-ball home run (courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play). Is it any wonder the D-Backs are 30-46? Weren’t they one of the rising teams in baseball a couple of years ago?

Diamondbacks fan

By now, you’ve surely heard about the big soccer game yesterday, in which the Americans lost a heartbreaker to Brazil in the final of a goofy tournament that seemed to exist mostly to see if South Africa could host the World Cup next year without anyone dying. And, by all accounts, things went pretty well there other than the airhorns that the locals blew non-stop for the duration of every game (FIFA went as far as to try and temper the outcry by writing an article explaining how important making a horrible noise for two straight hours is to the South African people). Oh, and there was also the whole thing with the hookers and the Egyptians. But other than that, everything was great.

And everything was looking really great for the U.S., which came back from near-certain elimination in the group stage of the Confederations Cup to shock Spain in the semis and take a 2-0 halftime lead over Brazil in the final. And while the Americans deserved the early lead, the Brazilians were clearly the better team over the course of 90 minutes, outshooting the U.S. 31-9. It was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net, and they beat Tim Howard three times in the second half to take the title.

Brazil

The NEW YORK TIMES says that U.S. soccer narrowly missed a “moment” it needed to gain the sport traction in this country again. While the run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals was gripping, the games were played in the middle of the night and the Americans came up short in the one game everyone finally tuned into (the quarterfinal loss to Germany). Likewise, most casual fans missed the huge win over Spain on Wednesday, but were glued to the screen as Brazil stormed back to crush our dreams once again on Sunday.

Still, the U.S. soccer program is in better shape now than it has ever been, but if the sport is really going to take the next step in this country (if that can actually ever happen), they can’t afford to have a weak showing on the return trip to South Africa next summer.

US soccer

• The single-A California League is known as the place where pitchers’ ERAs go to die. This is especially true in the wind-blown desert of Victorville, where the High Desert Mavericks scored 18 runs last night in a home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm. Oh, and they lost by 15 runs.

You read that right. The Storm scored 22 runs in the first five innings, then added 11 more in the last two, and beat High Desert 33-18. The game lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes and was played in 100-degree heat. There were 10 home runs hit, and Lake Elsinore’s starting pitcher gave up 11 runs and would’ve earned the win if his manager hadn’t lifted him with 2 outs in the fifth inning and his team leading by 11 runs. Lake Elsinore picked up 32 hits while the Mavericks had 26. Two of those hits were by outfielder James McOwen, a lightly-regarded prospect who extended his hitting streak to a league-record 36 games.

• The CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s Phil Rogers has a mean case of sports columnist hyperbole syndrome, suggesting that the the Cubs should waive Carlos Zambrano because they’ll never win anything with him on the team. That may be true, but of course they’ll be further away from winning anything without him, because, you know, he’s a good pitcher.

• A teenager is being congratulated for driving like three times the speed limit in New Hamsphire.

Free Shawn Estes!

• TNT’s play-by-play man for NASCAR was suspended from yesterday’s broadcast for a “loud and public confrontation” that took place at his hotel the other night. Nobody in the booth mentioned their missing colleague, Bill Weber.

Ricky Rubio is now faced with the harrowing dilemma of whether to live in Minnesota or Turkey.

• Hey, when did Dennis Rodman become a Laker fan? (photo courtesy of J.E. Skeets)

scary Laker girl

• Hey, things are looking up, Detroit — Marian Hossa probably isn’t coming back, so you can go back to winning Stanley Cups now.

• The sock-puppet Stephen A. Smith, who is sort of the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of the NBA Draft, made his final appearance at the Draft on Thursday. I will have a cheez doodle in his honor.

• BLACK VOICES says Serena Williams is writing a TV pilot inspired by both “Sex and the City” and “Family Guy.”  Just to warn you, Serena, the Sarah Jessica Parker-looks-like-a-horse joke is kind of a tired bit now.

• Scottish star Andy Murray is drawing record crowds to see him play at Wimbledon this year, and he’s up against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round today. And if you tune in, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears:

Kim Sears

Kim Sears

Has America’s performance in the Confederations Cup made you more interested in watching the World Cup next summer?

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Speed Read: Can Unknowns Hold Off Tiger & Phil?

On US Open Monday last year, Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate treated us to one of the classic golf duels of all time. And as we speak, Tiger and Rocco are back on the course trying to make history again. Unfortunately, they’ve been joined by 58 other people and Mediate’s tied for 54th place, so it might not exactly be as magical this time around. In fact, soggy Bethpage Black has been kind enough this week to let a one-time PGA winner and another guy who’s never even finished in the top 10 duke it out for the right to lose to Woods in a playoff later today.

Bethpage warning sign

(Warning: This Course Is So Tough It Can Only Be Described With Capitalized Words)

By the time you read this, my prediction may already be rendered silly, but I’m calling it now: Tiger makes it to 4-under and the two leaders, Lucas Glover and Ricky Barnes (who I thought was a pro bowler until Saturday), will fall back to finish in a tie, with Phil Mickelson one shot behind (due to something like accidentally hitting a putt backward). Other rock-solid predictions:

1) Fat David Duval will finally remember he’s not Skinny David Duval and shoot 94.

2) Someone in the crowd will yell “get in the hole!” on a 400-yard shot from the fescue that will actually go eight feet.

3) Johnny Miller will utter the phrase “trap draw” 391 times and complain about the swing of any prominently featured Scandinavian guy.

4) Instead of tossing his ball to the gallery at the 3rd hole after putting out like everyone else, Barnes will save himself the trouble by hitting his tee shot there.

Johnny Miller

(”Trap draw. Tiger’s lurking. Fescue. What’s the lie like, Roger? Wasn’t I good in the ’70s? Trap draw.”)

As for Tiger, play was suspended for the night just after he had pulled back to even par for the tournament. And while he’s still well within striking distance, some have suggested that he might be better off if someone clubbed him in the knee last night to help him regain his 2008 form.

Tiger Woods knee

Barnes, meanwhile, duck-hooked yet another drive just before the horn sounded. While some players elected to play out the hole they were on, Ricky decided to stew over that one all night and deal with it this morning. Perhaps it was just so he could still call himself a co-leader of the US Open at the pub last night. Barnes has not only never won on the PGA Tour, he’s also never won on the Nationwide Tour despite playing regularly there. So to say this is a tall order for him would be a massive understatement.

Also giving hope to the crowd lurking a few shots back is Lucas Glover, who has ranked 87th or worse in final-round scoring for three years running. As Jason Sobel notes in his ESPN blog, Glover’s only PGA Tour win came when he holed a 50-foot putt on 17 and a bunker shot on 18. Again, not exactly a reliable bet to hold it together down the stretch.

NEWSDAY says that the odd sight of the fourth round pairings teeing off until 7:30 p.m. last night made for some problems at the first tee as play was winding down for the night. While beer sales were cut off at 6, a number of fans who had been hitting the sauce pretty hard all day starting heckling anyone and everyone who started their round — including Phil and Tiger. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising considering the Long Island crowd has purchased 150,000 beers since Thursday, compared to 115,000 sodas and water bottles combined.

drunk Bethpage fans

While these guys battle to be America’s golf champion, America’s soccer team is currently battling to be the champion…of the eight teams that were chosen to come to a warm-up tournament for next year’s World Cup. Things weren’t looking so good, honestly, when the Americans were outscored 6-1 in lopsided losses to Brazil and Italy in the Confederations Cup. The U.S. began its match with Egypt yesterday needing a very specific and wildly improbably set of circumstances to occur to advance from the group stage to the semifinals. Which, of course, happened.

US soccer fans

The U.S. beat Egypt 3-0, while Brazil blasted the Italians by the same score, setting off a three-way tie for 2nd place in the group. And the U.S. was deemed to be not quite as bad as the other two teams by virtue of scoring one more goal overall than Italy, and in very soccer-like fashion advances based on a technicality. The reward for the Americans is a semifinal match with Spain, the reigning European champions and arguably the best team in the world right now. Basically, we have about as much of a chance at beating Spain at soccer as we’d have at beating Spain in paella-making and afternoon-nap-taking.

Spain fans

Those lovely ladies are rooting for you to scour today’s links:

•  Just days before filming was set to begin, Columbia has pulled funding from Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Michael Lewis‘ classic book “Moneyball.” VARIETY says the movie was set to star Brad Pitt (as we reported back in October) and ex-players like David Justice and Scott Hatteberg, who were both featured in the original book. Either Joe Morgan is now running Columbia or the studio finally realized that a $50 million film about baseball stats, even with Pitt attached, might not be the wisest investment out there.

• A mislabeled bus carrying a Canadian semi-pro football team in Indiana got into a major accident with an SUV yesterday. The SUV driver died, but everyone on the bus survived, though some had to be hospitalized. The players, who don’t get paid, are members of the London Silverbacks but were rolling in a bus that said their team was the “Mustangs.” ONLINE SPORTS GUYS has the story (and video of the wrecked bus). UPDATE: The AP is now reporting that the driver of the SUV who was killed was Beth Smith, the wife of PGA golfer Chris Smith. Chris was not in the car, but his kids were and they are seriously injured. Chris Smith has spent most of the last three years on the Nationwide Tour, and won his only PGA title in 2002.

• Protests in baseball almost never work, but Joe Girardi thinks he’s got a chance to win one he filed with MLB last night during the Yankees’ game with Florida that involved a botched double-switch by Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.

• We know that the U.S. is moving on to the semis in the Confederations Cup, but one American in the tournament isn’t.

• BITTEN AND BOUND says that Sergio Garcia’s recent inability to win big golf tournaments might have something to do with his heart being broken in March by Greg Norman’s lovely daughter, Morgan Leigh Norman. They offer no theories about Sergio’s inability to win big golf tournaments for the other 28 years of his life.

Morgan Norman and Sergio Garcia

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s trip to the DL might be just about the final nail in the coffin of the WBC, which is just going to crush those people in the Netherlands who couldn’t get enough of it.

• On the list of sports you won’t be seeing at this summer’s X Games: Car surfing.

The fake umpires took their show on the road this weekend, as they traveled from their hometown of Toronto to sit in on the Blue Jays-Nationals series in D.C. They claim to be the first people to ever travel to a different city to fake umpire a game from the front row, which is quite a feather in their cap. I still prefer Sheff’s Chefs.

fake umpires

• Buried at the bottom of this Grizzlies notebook is a statement from owner Michael Heisley that his team is one of the most profitable in the NBA despite a horrible team and worse attendance. It’s mostly attributed to keeping a low payroll. In other words, congratulations Memphis, you’re blessed with the second coming of Donald Sterling!

• Former Wimbledon champ Michael Stich has a not-at-all-offensive idea for how to deal with the women who grunt too loud during major tennis events: shoot them!

• Speaking of Wimbledon, let’s celebrate the start of the great championship with a couple of gratuitous shots of Russian pro Maria Kirilenko (Andrei Kirilenko would normally consider her for this year’s “allowance,” but there’s too much of a chance that they’re related):

Maria Kirilenko

 

Maria Kirilenko

Who’s going to win the US Open?

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Speed Read: Braves Get Their Man (& Ditch One)

Credit the Atlanta Braves for knowing how to manage a news cycle. They flipped three prospects to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Nate McLouth to answer the need for outfield help (which they failed to answer correctly the first time by not signing Adam Dunn in the offseason), and called up Tommy Hanson (pitching phenom) and sent down Jordan Schafer (outfielder phenom) and look at all the exciting news!

Nate McLouth

(Nate McLouth: interstate man of mystery no longer)

And, oh by the way, they cut local hero Tom Glavine so they wouldn’t have to pay him up to $3.5 million to throw weaker than Jamie Moyer in a headwind when they don’t really need a farewell tour but more of a starting pitcher. But look! Nate McLouth! All-Star!

Braves GM Frank Wren swears it’s not about the money - which always means it’s about the money. McLouth is actually fairly inexpensive through 2011 with a club option for 2012 if he’s worth $10 million, but the team is replacing three minor league salaries with a major league one (roughly speaking).

Glavine will look for another job and has a decent chance of finding one if the price is right for a desperate franchise. However, no franchise has shown enough desperation to hook up with Sammy Sosa since Baltimore began its bizarre fascination with Chicago Cubs outfielders in 2005 and Texas took Sammy out around the block in 2007.

Sammy Sosa getting hit in head

Therefore, he’s announcing his retirement officially this week… sometime. As always, Sammy has to get an extra swing or two in before finally connecting, so his actual retirement will be later this week. Possibly.

Some will celebrate their last chance to moralize about him before his Hall of Fame eligibility kicks in. Others will tell Sammy to put a cork in it because they’re sick of him. The best recommendation? Smash a boom box with a baseball bat. It’s like an aural piñata!

Finally, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team squirted the bed in a simply filthy manner last night in San José, Costa Rica. The U.S. squad gave up two goals in the first 15 minutes of a World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica at the notoriously difficult Saprissa Stadium (banned: alcohol, batteries, and coins) on their way to a 3-1 thumping that wasn’t remotely that close.

Costa Rican Superman

(A Costa Rican Superman? Well, that explains a lot)

The bastard out there at ESPN that thought it would help ratings if they jammed Jon & Kate Plus 8 in front of U.S. keeper Tim Howard instead delivered a showing that led the Galavision announcers to chastise the Costa Ricans for not stomping on the throats of the Americans even more and to compare one goal in particular to stealing candy from a baby.

Jon & Kate Plus 8 Plus Tim Howard

(Actual photo of attempted defensive wall)

Because of two silly yellow cards received by two U.S. players, the American team will be short two people when they play against Honduras at Soldier Field in Chicago Saturday, in what promises to feel like an away game with maybe 25% of the 60,000 fans cheering for Uncle Sam’s boys. If the U.S. doesn’t earn three points with a win, there’s a very real chance they could miss next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

If U.S. coach Bob Bradley is still looking for a left back that has never played there before in a crucial situation, why not call on Tom Glavine? He’s available; he’s a winner; he’s looking for a job. At worst, he can help heave batteries back into the crowd at a gentle 83 mph.

And now a hail of sapphire bullet points of pure love for the Queen of the Blues on her passing

  • One old baseball man who tabled his moment in the sun: Randy Johnson. His first attempt at 300 wins in D.C. last night got washed out by Mother Nature (whom Randy went to elementary school with) and will be played today at 4 pm ET with Mr. Unit on the mound.
  • Carlos Zambrano continues to show disrespect to inanimate objects by blowing off the team jet to Atlanta (and not for the first time). Needless to say, this story doesn’t have legs if the Cubs aren’t splashing around .500 still.
  • Also filed under “not living up to expectations and therefore open to criticism”, please note the Serena Williams entry created when she lost in the quarterfinals. She showed up to the French Open out of shape mentally and physically, choosing to wear outfits that accentuated the latter and threw snit fits that proved the former. The only person this “athlete/actress” is cheating is herself.

Serena Williams at the 2009 French Open

Jose Lima Wife

How did the Braves’ efforts yesterday affect the NL East race?

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Blog Expo-Fest-O-Rama: Is This Net-Thing On?

An abbreviated look around the blogmensions on this apparently Laborless Day for bloggers:

Live, on-the-ground-but-a-few-stories-up details on the near-no-hitter-but-might-still-be from Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Jim Powell.  In case you were concerned about partiality, the post is titled, “We Wuz Robbed”.

Highway robbery

• LADIES… tell us about mancrushes of famous bloggers.  (Also, they asked us.  You’re forewarned.)

Tom Brady says he’ll play in the opening game for the Patriots.  A wild and unsubstantiated rumor says otherwise.  Why are we having problems choosing the trustworthy source?
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