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NEWS ALERT ... Manziel flips the bird

Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel reminds us that he is overmatched and has character flaws by showing his middle finger in game against Washington

Only Tony Stewart can reveal his true intentions in tragic death of Kevin Ward Jr.

08/10/2014

There is no way to look inside of the mind of Tony Stewart and know if there was true intent.

Nor is there anything that can be done to bring 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. back to life.

What happened at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night can’t be undone and Stewart is going to be forever stained by the incident in which he struck Ward with his car and killed the young man.

You’d like to hope that Saturday’s incident wasn’t intentional but only Stewart truly knows. Because of his past – which includes many on-track examples of anger issues – there will always be doubt when it comes to Stewart’s intentions.

And a rich and famous NASCAR driver like Stewart has the influence and resources to sway any legal procedures. But he is powerless when it comes to public opinion.

This is one situation that isn’t going away anytime soon.

I watched the video of the incident – I will not post it here as I’m not one of those online entities begging for page views – and it certainly was stunning.

Ward was upset after spinning into a wall due to contact with Stewart’s car. He was angry and apparently wanted to yell at and confront Stewart on his next pass around the track.

He ventured toward Stewart’s car and Stewart struck him with the right back of his car. It is a horrible sight to see and Ward went flying and his limp body lay prone on the track.

Medical personnel scurried out to assist Ward and you can immediately see their panic when they reach him. They instantly know it’s a very, very dire situation.

The angle of the video doesn’t provide enough of a view to tell if Stewart moved his car into Ward’s direction but there are witness accounts that claim Stewart pumped his throttle as he approached Ward.

So perhaps Stewart was trying to send Ward a message and merely scare him. You would like to think a veteran driver like Stewart wouldn’t care too much about some 20-year-old yelling at him but it’s that track record of his that provides people with such doubt.

Again, I can’t see inside Stewart’s head so who knows what he thought and felt in that exact moment.

I don’t doubt that he feels bad now – he rightfully withdrew from Sunday’s NASCAR race at nearby Watkins Glen – and is probably deeply affected by what happened.

Authorities are investigating the incident and the District Attorney’s office stated “there is no evidence to support criminal charges or intent at this time.”

Sheriff Philip Povero also said there are no charges pending but he also is requesting that eyewitnesses with video of the crash contact his office.

So we will wait on the authorities to see if charges are brought against Stewart. And we will wonder why Ward couldn’t have been a little less agitated and not put himself in such a situation.

When it comes down to it – there is only one person who can tell us what really happened.

That is Tony Stewart.

Do tell, Tony. Your reputation depends on it.

People calling David Wilson a bust don’t understand the physical demands of football

08/06/2014

I see the social-media “experts” are terming David Wilson as a “bust.”

You know, all those people who know football through their televisions … or fantasy-football stats … or their “Madden” teams.

In other words, not the type of people who played the game for a living … or have attended hundreds or thousands of football practices … or have seen up close the physical toll playing football takes on someone’s body.

So there they are – calling David Wilson a bust because the career of the New York Giants’ running back lasted just two seasons before being cut short by a serious spinal condition.

A bust? Really? For suffering a career-ending injury before his career even got moving?

Seriously, nobody really has a clue how Wilson – who recently turned 23 – was going to develop as a player. There is a difference between a guy being a bust – hey there Ryan Leaf and Brian Bosworth – as opposed to someone getting hurt and never really getting the opportunity to show whether or not he could play at the NFL level.

It is perfectly fine if you were disappointed in Wilson’s 2012 rookie season output of 358 rushing yards. It’s not the first time a guy struggled in his first NFL campaign but obviously his production didn’t live up to the standards of a first-round pick.

It didn’t help that Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin – a back I thought should have been selected before Wilson, not after – rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns that same season.

Wilson got hurt last season and played just five games. He underwent major neck surgery and having a neck issue is never good for any human, let alone one in a profession that calls for repeated physical collisions at high speed.

So when Wilson recently suffered a setback early in training camp, it was surely a concern. During the examinations, doctors determined he has spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal – and advised him to give up the sport.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Something tells me risking paralysis isn’t a smart move. Wilson made the right decision by leaving the game (he didn’t officially retire yet, meaning he will be placed on injured reserve and be paid his 2014 salary).

So call him a bust if that makes you feel better about yourself. Let out that anger that the Giants selected him and not a different player.

But you know, there is nothing wrong with leaving the word bust out of the equation and simply looking at Wilson this way:

As a guy whose NFL career was cut short by injury.

Gregg Popovich says Becky Hammon is an NBA-caliber assistant coach — so she is

08/05/2014

I still remember covering the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. in 1996 and hearing the name Becky Hammon for the first time.

She played for Colorado State – which had absolutely zero tradition at the time – and we were amazed at what we were seeing. A freshman guard who grew up in South Dakota was so much more advanced than anybody on the floor, delivering pinpoint passes, draining long jumpers, being feisty on defense and always in the right place.

Then in the postgame interview session, Hammon could barely move while she politely answered questions. Turned out she was sicker than a dog while putting on such an amazing performance.

Hammon ended up leading the Rams to the NCAA tournament and enjoyed a great college career in which she is easily the best women’s college basketball player in Colorado State history. She has gone on to have a solid WNBA career and is now going to be known for more than the things she did on the court.

You see, Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach on Tuesday, making her the second female assistant coach in NBA history. Lisa Boyer was the first as an assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001-02.

There’s something about that Gregg Popovich guy. Always has a handle on things and not afraid to head in a direction that will make the organization better.

He was aware Hammon was interested in entering coaching and invited her to attend practices last season and even threw her into situations involving players and coaches. He saw what he needed to see to know that she could coach people of any gender – including veterans like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” Popovich said in a statement. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”

The 37-year-old Hammon is wrapping up her WNBA career – she’s in her 16th season and is a seven-time All-Star – and then will join the Spurs for the 2014-15 season.

I see no reason why this won’t be a good hire. I can see Hammon being on an NBA bench for a long time. If she later chooses to coach women players, this experience will only bolster her knowledge bank.

You see men coaching women’s basketball players all the time. So anybody who has issues about this is looking at it from a short-sighted view.

Hammon has long ago proved she knows the game and I’m sure she’ll be up to the task of coaching at the NBA level.

And if Popovich is saying she’s an NBA-caliber assistant coach, know this: She’s an outstanding coach.

Image of Paul George’s leg still on the mind; eventually he’ll be defined by his comeback

08/04/2014

I’m finally starting to get the image of Paul George’s leg out of my mind.

Whenever we see an image of a leg twisting and contorting in the wrong direction, the stomach gets queasy and you can’t help but quickly look away.

It’s natural to want to unsee what the eyes just saw when that type of compound fracture occurs. It is simply a very gruesome sight to see a leg break apart like a twig.

At least this time the devastating injury occurred away from the spotlight – yes, I know the USA Basketball exhibition was televised by ESPN – and wasn’t being watched by millions like the 2013 Final Four in which former Louisville player Kevin Ware suffered a similar leg injury.

Or if you’re a bit older – at least it wasn’t live on Monday Night Football like the night in 1985 when Joe Theismann’s leg snapped in half while being tackled by Lawrence Taylor.

George is one of the NBA’s rising stars and was the prime reason why the Indiana Pacers were being viewed as the favorites in the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 24-year-old George is set to begin a five-year contract worth more than $90 million so he at least secured his financial future before having this setback. He will make nearly $16 million while sitting out the 2014-15 campaign.

That doesn’t make his recovery any less challenging, of course. But also think of this:

Do you know somebody who is dealing with a tough situation? One that is frustrating and maddening and hard to deal with?

I bet George would write a check for $45 million to trade situations with that person and have a healthy leg.

But since he can’t do that, I expect we will see George approach this situation with incredible passion.

Top-flight professional athletes like George don’t become All-Stars in their sports without having supreme mental toughness. Adversity like this becomes another challenge to overcome and surely George will undergo his rehab efforts with a fierce competitiveness and fully planning to regain his past stellar form.

And I don’t bet against athletes like that. There are so many examples of players who returned to form after a devastating injury so I see no reason why George wouldn’t do the same.

I just wish I could fully unsee that visual of George’s leg.

Can’t forget NFL’s hand slap of Ray Rice while it pushes its pink apparel on women

07/24/2014

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been suspended for two games by the NFL for the incident in which he beat his fiancé – now his wife – into a pulp.

The length of Rice’s penalty is pretty weak when you consider he knocked a woman unconscious at an Atlantic City casino and then dragged her out of the elevator. Yep, Rice received a shorter suspension than what players receive when caught with possession of marijuana.

Pathetic is the only word that fits.

The NFL sent a loud message to women with this light punishment. You know, the same group of people the league goes overboard in attracting with its marketing of pink apparel.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL’s 32 owners sure are interested in how much cash they can siphon out of a woman’s bank account.

But clearly not anywhere near as concerned if a player decides to use his fiancé as a punching bag.

Goodell wrote the following in the letter to Rice – apparently not grasping that an overwhelming amount of the “public” views the length of the suspension as an extremely light penalty.

“The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,” Goodell wrote. “This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.”

It’s hard to take Goodell seriously when Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon is facing a possible season-long suspension for substance-abuse transgressions.

Gordon certainly deserves a penalty but taking away a full season’s worth of pay from a guy struggling with personal demons doesn’t sound right when compared to Rice’s little slap on the wrist.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh also seemed to miss the point with his own statement.

“He makes a mistake, alright? He’s going to have to pay a consequence,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s good for kids to understand it works that way. That’s how it works, that’s how it should be.”

So kids, make sure you decipher that message: If you should somehow be lucky enough to be one of the few kids to become an NFL player, you too can belt women and can receive a hand slap.

But good luck if you turn out to be a mere mortal like the rest of us. Then you might find yourself serving jail time.

You know, because you have to “pay a consequence.”

Rice released his own statement claiming his future actions will show he’s sincere in regaining his status as a role model.

Doesn’t really matter if you ask me. The visual of Rice dragging a woman out of an elevator after knocking her unconscious will always trump anything he does in the future.

Rice dropped the ball with his conduct and the NFL fumbled badly when it came to doling out punishment.

Hope everybody remembers this when the NFL is pushing its pink apparel on women during its annual breast-cancer awareness promotion in October.

Story of #VacationSanDiego — the latest wonderful trip home — viewed via tweets

07/22/2014

The third version of vacation via tweets has hit the cyber world.

My latest return to my awesome hometown of San Diego was wonderful and here is the tweet-by-tweet blow of what kind of became known as #VacationSanDiego.

It was only my fourth time home since I moved from the paradise of Southern California to the fine city of Boise, Idaho. And, of course, there was one dorky woman who screeched “Potatoes!” when finding out where I live.

So I now kind of know what it feels like when native “Idahoans” – what a dumb term – experience it.

At heart, I will always be a San Diego guy. Time to enjoy the 2014 version of vacation via tweets. Enjoy.

JULY 10

–The suitcase is packed so the #SanDiego vacation is about to commence. So you may see me somewhere around #SoCal through July 21.

–Just getting off plane in #SanDiego … Did LeBron sign with anyone yet? … Nice ocean breeze too. #ahhhhhhhhh

–I’m on trolley. Two guys talking about #Padres & #Dodgers tied 1-1. Then I hear this: “I sure hope we can go to the World Series (cont)

–this year. We haven’t been since ’98.” … Yep, they are talking about the PADRES playing in the 2014 World Series. #ummmmmmmmmm

JULY 11

–Got into San Diego & wanted to get online at my mom’s house. She called @CoxComm for help & it was a two-plus hour nightmare. The support

–people @CoxComm couldn’t have been more inept & didn’t come close to resolving the issues or even discussing it. Just as bad was their phone

–reps as you sat on hold for 30-plus minutes & then got transferred again without help. @CoxComm needs to look up what “customer support”

–means as I am appalled at the waste of time without any meaningful effort to solve the issues. Shame on you @CoxComm

–Oh delicious chicken at #ElPolloLoco … How I have missed you. #Succulent#VacationSanDiego

–Look what was found in my mom’s garage: 1978 commemorative 7up San Diego All-Star game bottles. pic.twitter.com/02ZuDV8Gtv

–Dinner at delicious Tio Leo’s during #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/FZaFS3tUIa

–I’m on the #SanDiegoState campus & not being paid to be on it. And not here digging up dirt. Weird feeling. pic.twitter.com/iZ2bwMUIWM

–The plaque at Tony Gwynn Stadium. pic.twitter.com/n18PWq8Kdi

JULY 12

–Vacation hijinks — locked out of house for 90 minutes with phone inside & no shoes on. Hard to break into my mom’s house I have learned.

–Great night on Coronado Island watching a band with my brother, my sister-in-law & her best friend since forever. #VacationSanDiego rocks.

JULY 13

–Can’t wait until the #WorldCupFinal is settled by penalty kicks. #SaidNoOneEver

–We shall be forever thankful to Mario Gotze for saving us from penalty-kick conclusion http://wp.me/pumSY-Vd  via @wordpressdotcom

–If you know what #MonaLisa pizza is in #SanDiego then you know my family and I did dinner correctly (and awesomely) on Sunday night.

JULY 14

–I’m at famous South Mission Beach in #SanDiego. About 68 degrees in mid-July. pic.twitter.com/2lzKzI9XUZ

–Have reached the Pacific Beach boardwalk — about two miles north of where I started. #VacationSanDiego #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/98oNV9acUK

–This dude just caught a mackerel off PB Pier. Says he nearly reeled in a 140-pound mako shark two days ago. pic.twitter.com/V92MbIqEmf

–Just rode the old rickety Belmont Park roller coaster — my chiropractor will be happy to see me. #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/7qhgqPgmCB

–No trip home to #SanDiego is complete without a stop at my dad’s gravesite. pic.twitter.com/tgRnGjKVjX

–So glad I’m on vacation and enjoying the #SanDiego summer awesomeness. Do not miss the #Boise sauna at all. #SanDiegoVacation

–One of my cousins says I shouldn’t use social media while on vacation. Can the would-be robber please turn on my air conditioner on July 21?

–Out exercising at #LakeMurray & there are copters making some type of rescue high atop #CowlesMountain. Fire crews also involved. #SanDiego

JULY 15

–High of 75 today in #SanDiego. Overnight low will be 69. #AwesomenessNeverEndsInMyBelovedHometown

–About to move my vacation base to Murrieta, CA for next three days. If you’re near that vicinity or LA, this is your time to meet up with me.

–So are they waiting for Huston Street to come into game to acknowledge Tony Gwynn? And if Street doesn’t come in, then … *crickets* …

#Fox swings and misses on All-Star Game telecast by failing to tribute Tony Gwynn http://wp.me/pumSY-Vi  via @wordpressdotcom #MLB

JULY 16

–This is when a #SoCal vacation reaches its zenith — a visit to #InNOutBurger. Sooooooooo delicious. pic.twitter.com/7eeaWrprpm

JULY 17

–Just saw the infamous #Murrieta border patrol protest site. All of three protestors there. #NothingToSeeHere

JULY 18

–Qualcomm Stadium in #SanDiego, where I attended a ton of sporting events as a kid & covered games as a sportswriter. pic.twitter.com/CSnKNpqXXK

–Here is my view from #PetcoPark for #Padres vs #Mets. Free, of course. Always good to go to ballpark in my hometown. pic.twitter.com/MDkzvln9uR

–I’m at Petco Park & am told by reliable #Padres source that Huston Street has been traded to #Angels.

–Just witnessed the #Padres score four runs in a single inning. The #SanDiego Padres. Of 2014. #ThisCantBeRealLife

–Maybe I will address this on my website on Saturday but I will kind of miss Huston Street not being on #Padres. Outstanding 2 1/2 seasons.

–My sister told some random gal on the trolley that I moved from San Diego to #Boise & the predictably silly response happened: “Potatoes!”

–Random trolley gal plans to move back to CA after seven years in Minnesota because it gets “too cold.” Um, pretty sure that wasn’t a secret.

JULY 19

–It is 73 right now in #SanDiego … The high will be 74 … Overnight low will be 68 … #MightBeTimeToMoveBack

–Dealing Huston Street another reminder that #Padres remain on road to nowhere http://wp.me/pumSY-Vp  via @wordpressdotcom

–For those keeping track, June 18, 2010 is last time #Padres won with me inside Petco Park. So you know what’s coming. http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SDN/SDN201006180.shtml …

–OK, here is my Petco Park view on Saturday per #Padres vs #Mets. Yes, of course, free again. #StillOwnSanDiego #LOL pic.twitter.com/rMbYDpeI2R

–People to my right — and 15 seconds later to my left — we’re shown on #PetcoPark scoreboard & I think it was the highlight of their lives.

–Some miserable people are trying to get the wave going. Over & over. Apparently baseball is boring when the #Padres score runs.

–Seth Smith homers & dude is back to trying to start wave. He also announced loudly: “I don’t even like baseball!” Really now — who knew?

–Here is the statue of Jerry Coleman at Petco Park. pic.twitter.com/YWgsTrPohX

#Padres defeat #Mets 6-0 — first time they’ve won with me inside #PetcoPark since June 18, 2010 when they beat the #Orioles.

JULY 20

–Why yes, I did attend mass at the legendary Mission San Diego de Alcala, founded in 1769 by Junipero Serra. #Vacation pic.twitter.com/tfjzFeiOJg

–Take that as a reminder why nobody takes a #Padres no-hit attempt seriously until game reaches ninth. #SanDiegoDoesntDoNoHitters

–Hard to believe #VacationSanDiego ends tomorrow. Why does time fly so fast when you’re on vacation? #NotFairAtAll

JULY 21

–This can’t be real — @AlaskaAir sends email NOW that flight will depart 3 1/2 HOURS LATE. When confirming, it lists my scheduled (cont)

–flight of 2:55 still. My flight number (3483) is not listed ANYWHERE on @AlaskaAir website. Do they have nobody who updates website? (cont)

–Knowing when your flight departs is kind of important @AlaskaAir … or did Russell Wilson need the plane for himself?

–I avoided #Southwest & picked a nonstop flight on #Alaska to avoid travel issues and what do I get — travel issues! … #VacationSanDiego

–End result — I have 3 1/2 hours of extra time to spend in #SanDiego … better than an airport delay in Boston, Washington or Jacksonville.

–My view of downtown #SanDiego from Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. pic.twitter.com/B73GPHETK7

–The last of five outstanding pieces of halibut at Point Loma Seafoods. Scrumptious. #VacationSanDiego pic.twitter.com/GD34abyBCY

–Have reached the airport — way early so my mom doesn’t have to drive in 5 o’clock traffic. #VacationSanDiegoNearsAnEnd

–Finally landed in #Boise — 3 hours, 43 minutes later than scheduled. #VacationSanDiegoOver

–So the robber didn’t break in & turn on my air conditioner after all — 82 degrees and like a sauna in my place. #VacationOver #BackInBoise

JULY 22 UPDATE

–It must be noted that Customer Care at has given me a $100 travel voucher due to Monday’s travel nightmare.

Dealing Huston Street another reminder that Padres remain on road to nowhere

07/19/2014

Before Huston Street pitched for the San Diego Padres, he was one of those closers that you always felt your team could stage that ninth-inning rally against.

Doesn’t throw all that hard, prone to letting guys reach base and seemingly easily rattled with the pressure ratcheted up. The latter reputation was his own doing as the residue from his horrible postseason performances in 2006 with the Oakland Athletics and 2009 with the Colorado Rockies was mighty unsightly.

Street may finally get another chance to erase those postseason blights (9.00 playoff ERA and nightmares of Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth) now that the Padres have dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels in a six-player deal in which four minor-leaguers are coming San Diego’s way.

And the funny thing is I will now miss Huston Street being on the Padres. He has been the best closer in the majors over the past 2 1/2 seasons – look it up yourself if you don’t believe it – by converting 95.2 percent of his save opportunities. Yep, he was a splendid 80-of-84 in save situations for San Diego including 24-of-25 this season before Friday night’s trade to the Angels.

There sure wasn’t much suspense this season when Street came into a game. The ninth-inning was typically over quickly as the 30-year-old Street – fully aware he can’t blow guys away – would have impeccable pinpoint location and flat-out mow down opponents.

He had a 1.09 ERA in 33 games this season and was named to the National League All-Star team for the second time in three seasons.

Street had a club-friendly option for 2015 so I was of those folks saying the Padres should keep Street if they saw themselves as contenders next season. But this move pretty much answers that question for us, doesn’t it?

The Padres – who also need to hire a new general manager – aren’t going to be contenders next season in the eyes of upper management.

If you know your Padres history, you also know not to get excited over any club-fueled propaganda – and, unfortunately, the media-fueled hype from the softy baseball writers in San Diego. The Padres have missed on a lot of these proven stars for a wheelbarrow of prospects thing too often – does Fred McGriff to the Atlanta Braves or Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox ring a bell? – so patience and seeing how things play out is the proper way to view the situation.

The Angels are considered to have one of the worst farm systems in baseball and three of the players they gave up are already 22 years old or older. You know, old enough that there are people in the Los Angeles organization who have dissected their skills and undoubtedly began wondering if they are major-league caliber players.

Let’s just say the Padres better hope there is a major-league player or two in the package of second baseman Taylor Lindsey, shortstop Jose Rondon and pitchers R.J. Alvarez and Elliott Morris or else the skeptical San Diego fans will remember this latest giveaway for years to come.

Now that Street is gone, the Padres ought to start tearing down this very bad baseball team.

Chase Headley has been a disappointment since his career year in 2012. Trade him.

Carlos Quentin has been horrible all season, is injured way too often and is a complete jerk as a person. Beg a team to take him (just request a few dozen batting-practice balls and be done with him).

Joaquin Benoit will replace Street as the closer but he did a superb job with the Detroit Tigers last season showing everybody that he’s not a ninth-inning guy. Send him to a team that needs another reliever to pitch the seventh or eighth.

Now that we know the Padres don’t plan to win this season, just go all Trader Jack McKeon and get rid of as many as these clowns as you can.

What the Street deal does is show all of us the Padres are once again on their very familiar long road to being a viable playoff contender. You know, the never-ending-circle of mediocrity they’ve been riding for most of the Petco Park era.

Perhaps that is why Huston Street should really be missed – moving him is that not-so-small reminder that the ownership in San Diego still isn’t fully committing to providing winning baseball.

Fox swings and misses on All-Star Game telecast by failing to tribute Tony Gwynn

07/15/2014

I simply don’t understand there not being a tribute to Tony Gwynn during Tuesday’s All-Star Game telecast.

The midsummer classic is always a good time to reflect on the history of the game and it seems odd that Fox wouldn’t have planned some type of quick remembrance for the legendary former star of the San Diego Padres.

The eight-time batting champion – and 15-time All-Star – died last month at the age of 54. How quickly Major League Baseball forgets its stars, huh?

Judging from social-media accounts, there are people all around the country upset or miffed about this. So don’t look at this at some kind of San Diego thing.

We are talking about one of the all-time great hitters to ever step on the diamond. An icon who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and known for being a first-class representative of baseball.

Wasn’t expecting a big ceremony or something, but it certainly isn’t too much to expect Fox to throw in a quick 10-second tribute and move back into the flow of the game. Maybe even say one less sentence about Derek Jeter and include ONE about Gwynn.

Fox is a network that certainly does a lot of wimpy, ludicrous things during its baseball telecasts so I suppose I shouldn’t be overly surprised.

Regardless, the lack of a tribute for Gwynn is a big swing-and-a-miss for both Fox and MLB.

We shall be forever thankful to Mario Gotze for saving us from penalty-kick conclusion

07/13/2014

How nice it was for Mario Gotze of Germany to score late in extra time to make sure the World Cup final wasn’t decided by penalty kicks.

Gotze controlled a cross from Andre Schurrle with his chest before smacking a close-range, left-foot blast past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the 114th minute to give Germany a dramatic 1-0 victory in Sunday’s championship match in Rio de Janeiro.

I’m sure there were many people like me fearing the solid match would be decided by penalty kicks – one of the dumbest ways to ever decide a title.

Can you imagine an NBA Finals game going two overtime periods and then everybody stopping and deciding it by making – or missing – free throws? Or the Super Bowl reaching a point in which the action is halted and the outcome is determined by kicking extra points?

Obviously, Dwight Howard wouldn’t be needed to participate in the free-throw shooting and could just depart the premises. And, um, how confused would Donovan McNabb get over the extra-point twist?

Thankfully, the soccer match was decided before we had to endure those shenanigans as Germany celebrates its first World Cup title since 1990 and its fourth overall.

Manuel Neuer played superbly in goal and the Germany defensive tactics made it difficult for Argentina star Lionel Messi to operate. Messi came up empty on his few opportunities, including a wide shot when the game was scoreless.

In fact, Messi had two late chances but headed the first attempt high and then his late free kick was so high over the goal that it undoubtedly landed somewhere near Panama.

Then again, I’m glad Messi didn’t sneak in a late goal. Then we would have gone to penalty kicks and we just can’t have that.

Because that would be like halting a World Series game after 12 innings and deciding it with stolen-base attempts.

Ummmmmm, thank you very much Mario Gotze.

LeBron James elects to return to Cavaliers so he can get back to being a hometown hero

07/11/2014

LeBron James has decided that you can go home again.

The decision by King James to return to Cleveland didn’t stun me all that much as I felt he was playing things way too close to the vest during the recent postseason. If he was intent on solely returning to Miami after the playoffs ended, all he had to do was say so.

He was on a team that was in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season – no easy task regardless of his immense talents. He had running mates in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade that he enjoys as both people and players.

I don’t think how badly the Heat were rolled by the San Antonio Spurs in the finals had anything to do with this decision. I think James had returning back to Ohio on his mind for a while.

It’s hard to beat being home – and even better when you can be super rich as you return.

James appears to be comfortable with the notion that he will unlikely be on a team that reaches the NBA Finals next season. He seems OK with it taking a bit of time for the Cavaliers to finish building toward a title-worthy team.

“I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys,” James told Sports Illustrated, the entity in which he chose to release this latest decision.

NBA All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving is on the roster and Cleveland selected Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft. That gives the Cavaliers a pretty solid trio right there.

Rumors abound that a deal to pry Kevin Love away from the Minnesota Timberwolves could occur and that would give Cleveland a real solid group – depending on the price to obtain Love.

What’s interesting this time around is James quietly announced his decision. None of that “The Decision” special-show silliness like when he chose the Cavaliers in 2010.

The way James went about leaving Cleveland brought him a lot of criticism. Nearly all of it deserved.

But he obviously learned a lesson and went about it differently this time. That’s a sign of maturity and, well, a solid decision.

I’m sure people in Miami are unhappy but they did receive four years from James in the prime of his career. Two NBA titles, two other trips to the championship round and the value of the franchise skyrocketed.

But it does seem like Northeastern Ohio – Akron is James’ hometown – is a better fit than South Beach. And to me, it always felt like James would someday play for the Cavaliers again. Kind of better that he returns why he’s still at the top of his game and not say at age 34 or 35 when his skills start declining.

Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert ripped James in a letter in 2010 after the departure and there clearly was some fence-mending needed. Once that discussion was had, I’m guessing it wasn’t all that hard for James to make this decision.

While Cleveland fans are ecstatic, there can’t be many people more excited than David Blatt.

Never heard of Blatt? No problem – neither had most of us until he was hired as coach of the Cavaliers.

Now this dude gets to coach LeBron James … in Cleveland.

Because the King is returning to his once-proud throne.

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