Posts Tagged ‘NASCAR’

This will probably sound mean at first but I am really, really glad NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson had skin cancer surgery this week.

Of course, it isn’t that I wanted Johnson — or anybody else — to have a skin cancer situation. It is just that he is a very visible and well-respected public figure who can help awareness.

Johnson had surgery to remove basal cell carcinoma from his shoulder — and that type of skin cancer is something I know very, very well.

I’ve had too many basal cell carcinoma situations to count. My first experience was the scariest — the spot near my nose on the left side of the face required major surgery and the tumor was bigger than a quarter inside my face. Somewhere there is a Polaroid photo of the hole in my face before I was stitched back up.

Nobody I meet ever can tell this occurred without me pointing it out to them so my surgeon did a superb job. But it is hard to forget laying there and having your face cut open — it took 42 stitches to close me back up — and every time the doctor sensed I could feel it, there was another shot to the face.

A needle into the face.

Yeah, 3 1/2 hours of super, duper fun. Not.

I have had three others surgically removed and probably two dozen others frozen off with liquid nitrogen, which is negative 321 degrees. That is also the preferred way to be treated — a 10-second squirt and it freezes the area and the cancer falls off in less than two weeks.

Oh, another reason why I am glad Johnson was dealing with basal cell carcinoma — he didn’t hear the dreaded ‘M word.’

That would be melanoma. That’s the worst word you can hear when you are visiting the skin doctor and he or she identifies something suspicious.

Melanoma leads to things like chemotherapy and radiation and is a death sentence for some people. But basal cell carcinoma doesn’t spread, it is a local cancer and it doesn’t kill you.

Johnson learned the same thing I did during my first experience — if you have to get skin cancer, this is the type to get.

“Carcinoma doesn’t spread. It doesn’t go to the glands,” Johnson told reporters Friday at Pocono Raceway prior to this Sunday’s Pocono 400. “They just have to dig it out and you’re good to go. Once I understood that, my reaction to the ‘C’ word calmed down.”

Good time to mention to read this stellar story about Johnson’s experience — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=20&story_id=168468

Johnson grew up in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon and was often outside in the Southern California sun.

I can relate. When I was a kid you played outdoors all day and there was little talk about sunscreen. I went to hundreds of day-time sporting events while growing up to watch the Padres or Chargers play and I know I was unprotected most of the time.

The sun damage accumulates over time and I have to constantly be aware. I’m diligent and nearly always have sunscreen with me and I still regularly get a new spot or mole that needs to be checked.

There is better awareness this century and that is why I am glad somebody like Johnson can tell his personal skin cancer experience.

People listen to a legendary figure like himself — his Twitter post below from Monday has so far received 763 retweets and more than 2,700 likes.

“Wear sunblock kids. I’ve spent the morning on a table having Basal Cell Carcinoma cut out of my shoulder.”

That type of reaction doesn’t happen when I post about a new skin cancer. I don’t have that type of pull.

But Johnson does and that is why I wasn’t the least bit mad that he joined me as someone who deals with basal cell carcinoma. He is someone who can raise the awareness and I hope his experience leads to some people getting into the habit of applying sunscreen.

Welcome to the club, Jimmie. Hope you never hear the M word.

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I’m thinking everybody could use a little “Dan Wheldon luck” in their lives.

Wheldon had the good fortune of being in second place as the Indianapolis 500 veered into the final turn of the race. That is typically a very helpless feeling for a race car driver because it means you’re going to have a really good view of somebody else taking the checkered flag.

But playing second fiddle on this Sunday resembled a sweet hoedown sound for Wheldon as the unthinkable really did happen on the final turn.

Rookie JR Hildebrand had the race in the bag and was just seconds away from winning when he crashed into the wall on the final turn. Instead of slowing down a couple miles per hour and taking the safe approach, Hildebrand elected to pass fellow rookie Charlie Kimball on the turn and lost control.

Hildebrand was able to ride the wall down the straightaway to cross the finish line in second place but Wheldon easily passed him to win his second career Indy 500 title at the famed Brickyard.

Wheldon is the 18th racer to win multiple Indy titles – the Englishman also won in 2005 – and had finished second the two previous years. But he was an unlikely winner this year in that he doesn’t have a full-time ride.

Bryan Herta Autosport made the wise choice to give Wheldon a one-race deal for the 100th anniversary Indy 500 race. Wheldon certainly shouldn’t have problems landing more racing assignments.

Wheldon was highly emotional after winning and it wasn’t solely due to the unbelievably good fortune. His mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and Wheldon had partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to promote awareness of the disease less than two weeks ago.

Got to say winning the race will draw a lot more attention to the issue than finishing second would have.

It will be very interesting to see how the 23-year-old Hildebrand deals with his last-lap blunder. Navigating the first 799 turns without issue means nothing when you fail to make the final one. His adrenaline was surely sky high and his heart was undoubtedly pounding as he realized how close he was to a monumental achievement.

All he needed was a bit more patience and I’m sure there will be racing experts pointing out that his inexperience played a part in the last-turn blunder. It will certainly be a great learning experience for the Northern California native and will provide a great storyline if he someday wins at Indy.

Some other thoughts on Indy:

• Dario Franchitti’s late fade meant we all lost the opportunity for some nice post-race Ashley Judd viewing. You could see ABC was doing its part with its camera angle in the post-race interview with Franchitti by making sure Judd was in the background.

• I’m proud of Danica Patrick. She didn’t annoy me all week and she ran a good race Sunday and even had the lead with under 20 laps to go. There are rumors she will become a full-time NASCAR driver next season so there is a possibility it was her last Indy 500. Predictably, Danica slipped in a “pretty green GoDaddy car” reference into her post-race interview.

• The way Wheldon won reminds me of how important it is to just stay on the track and keep grinding away during an auto race. Bertrand Baguette looked unstoppable late in the race but didn’t have enough fuel to make it and had to take a pit stop with just three laps left. Think about that – Baguette needed to drive just 7 1/2 more miles to win the race. Hildebrand was going to be the beneficiary of Baguette’s fuel shortage issues until his mishap opened the door for Wheldon.

• Never been inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway but was amazed during a visit to Indianapolis that the racetrack is in a residential area. You know that high grandstand you see during the race? There’s a residential street – Georgetown Road – right behind it. I can’t even fathom how much of a madhouse the area is on Indy 500 race day. (http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&sugexp=lemsnc&xhr=t&q=indianapolis+motor+speedway&cp=19&rlz=1R2ADFA_enUS352&um=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1007&bih=465&wrapid=tlif130670358645710&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=nl … apparently, you will have to do the zooming in of the racetrack on your own).

Put me on the fence in terms of the San Diego Padres’ acquisition of Miguel Tejada.

You would like to think the Padres could have landed an outfield bat in a trade market where veteran names are flying around faster than Jimmie Johnson circles a NASCAR track.

On the other hand, the Padres don’t have the budgetary room for a large contract and a two-month rental of a former MVP – the Baltimore Orioles agreed to pay half of the $2 million remaining on Tejada’s 2010 contract – might be the best San Diego can do.

The Padres had to find a bat somewhere to spruce up a sagging offense. Pitching and defense have carried the team into first place. San Diego is 60-40 entering Friday’s game with the Florida Marlins.

Want to know bad the San Diego offense is? Tejada is in the midst of the worst season of his 14-year major-league career and he was immediately penciled into the clean-up spot upon arriving for Friday’s game.

The six-time All-Star is batting .269 with just seven homers and 39 RBIs.

At age 36, Tejada is no longer the offense force he once was in his prime. He has four 30-homer seasons to his credit with the most recent one coming in 2004. He has driven in 100 or more runs six times, the last time occurring in 2006.

Tejada was the American League MVP in 2002 for the Oakland Athletics when he had 34 homers and 131 RBIs. He matched the 34 homers in 2004 for the Orioles when he knocked in a career-high 150 runs.

Tejada is playing shortstop for the Padres on Friday night, the first time all season he has played the position. That concerns me because Tejada was a 20-error man even in his prime. Baltimore moved him to third base this season because it was believed Tejada no longer was an every-day defensive shortstop.

Tejada certainly will be an offensive upgrade over light-hitting Everth Cabrera and he can also spell third baseman Chase Headley. Headley has struggled against left-handed pitching this season.

We’ll soon see if being in a pennant race inspires Tejada to regain his past form over the next two months.

The price was right (Double-A pitcher Wynn Pelzer) so it’s not like the Padres gave up two or three prized prospects in hopes of a quick fix.

But I wonder if the Padres could have done better. If they only have financial room to add one hitter, was a declining Miguel Tejada the best option?

We’ll know the answer to that question soon enough.

Oh no, another Tiger Woods scandal is upon us.

Tiger still uses profanity. Oh my, the horror!

It’s beyond silly that people are getting worked up over the fact Woods used some salty language during Saturday’s third round of the Masters.

I have a little secret for you: Numerous baseball, football and basketball stars cuss, too.

I know, I know – next thing you know, I’ll tell you that NASCAR drivers and MMA fighters use naughty words too (duh!).

There’s nothing odd about a professional athlete using profanity during a highly competitive game or match. Happens all the time. Even happens during college sports — like the NCAA basketball tournament and major college football bowl games.

Hard for Tiger to know where CBS’ microphones are going to be during his 18-hole stroll around the golf course. His primary focus is on playing his round and, like any competitive athlete, he is going to have impulsive reactions to something good or bad that occurs.

Now if Tiger suddenly starts reciting some of his naughty text messages to his stable of mistresses after a bad shot, then go ahead and get worked up. But the expectation that he should only use choirboy language during a round at the Masters is silly.

Yes, I’m aware Woods professed that he planned to show more respect to the game of golf prior to his return to action. And yes, it would behoove him to do that since the sport does have more gentlemanly customs than team sports do.

But thinking that Tiger – or any other professional athlete – will never utter an expletive during a game or round is unreasonable. It happens – and will continue to happen.

Chad Campbell and Nathan Green both shot 80s during Saturday’s third round. I’d be willing to bet they weren’t uttering a lot of cheery words during their disastrous rounds. Of course, they don’t have CBS microphones near them at all times, either.

On the golf-playing side of things, Woods is tied for third at 8-under-par 208, four shots behind leader Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson is one shot behind Westwood after a round that included back-to-back eagles. K.J. Choi is tied for third with Woods.

Fred Couples is still in the hunt in fifth place, five shots behind Westwood, entering Sunday’s final round.

Since the Super Bowl ended with Drew Brees celebrating and Peyton Manning rushing toward the exits, I’ve heard several people bemoan that it will be a long seven months waiting for the 2010 NFL season to commence.

At first, that sounds silly. There’s a lot of stuff that will happen in the sports world between now and September. You would think there would be something that would interest them, wouldn’t you?

To fully drum that in, just think of the Sunday sports schedule. It includes one of the biggest auto races of the year in the Daytona 500, the NBA All-Star Game in that ridiculously big Cowboys Stadium and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

That’s a pretty good Sunday of events – the Pro Bowl would have been in the mix too if the NFL hadn’t moved the date of the game up two weeks – to where you’d think there would be something worth watching.

But guess what, I realized Saturday night that I’m not all that interested in watching any of the three events, either. Of course, I’ll be working most of the afternoon and have a deadline to meet – if you want to count the easy-to-me task of writing as work – but I’m still not all that intrigued.

I recognize and truly respect that NASCAR’s Daytona 500 is a major sporting event but cars driving around in circles have never resonated with me. Of course, I’ve never spent a single day of my life in the state of Alabama so I’ve never had to worry about some NASCAR fanatic hijacking me and forcing me to spend a day watching the good ol’ boys and singing Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” or Lynard Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Again, I respect how popular NASCAR is – especially in the South – but even one of the two biggest auto races of the year (the Indianapolis 500 being the other) isn’t must-watch TV for me. No Danica Patrick crash possibility, no interest to me.

The NBA All-Star Game used to be something I never missed – at one time, it was the best of the pro sports All-Star games – but it hasn’t carried the same luster it used to over the past several years. Even the Twitterverse outrage over David Lee originally being passed over for the All-Star team – he’s since been named to the East squad as an injury replacement for undeserving Allen Iverson – hasn’t swayed me to become interested.

I watched part of Texas playing North Carolina in Cowboys Stadium recently so I don’t even have the curiosity factor of wondering what a basketball game in the mammoth stadium looks like. Here’s a hint – the video scoreboard that hangs high above the floor is longer than the 94-foot basketball floor.

As for Sunday’s Winter Olympics schedule, I’ll peruse the schedule and see what’s on tap. I’m sure I’ll watch a portion of NBC’s coverage but I’m not planning my day wondering how the United States fared against China in the biathlon or who performed well in moguls skiing.

Ever thought about how the only time we ever hear the word “moguls” is during the Winter Olympics?

So I suppose I really do understand a little bit why there are some people who won’t get excited over the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament or April’s start of the major-league baseball season or June’s NBA Finals or tennis at Wimbledon. Those folks think the sports world will be in hibernation until the next NFL regular season kicks off.

I disagree, of course, but my viewing habits on Sunday won’t separate me from those who think a September Sunday night football game between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans is must-see TV.

When I think NASCAR, NBA All-Star Game and Winter Olympics on February, 14, 2010, there is only one thing that rattles my mind and it isn’t which lucky lady to go grab Valentine’s dinner with. Here’s where my heart is: How did we get to the point that Kevin Garnett is the elder statesmen in terms of which current NBA All-Star participant has played in the most NBA All-Star Games?

Garnett is playing in his 13th All-Star contest on Sunday. If that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then you’re not into the NBA (fully understand that) or you are already dead (sorry I didn’t send flowers).

So, OK, I get it – those folks who think only the NFL matters? Cool. But what happens if there’s an NFL work stoppage when September of 2011 arrives?

Suddenly, those meaningless late-season baseball games between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates will keep me in suspense. Even the San Diego Padres – you know they will be at least 20 games out when September arrives – will have to entertain me.

The more I think about it; perhaps I should catch some of Sunday’s Daytona 500. Seeing who grabs the checkered flag has got to be more entertaining than figuring out which NHL team Alex Ovechkin plays for.

Hey, is Richard Petty part of the Daytona 500 field?

Spent some time Friday pondering how much of the Winter Olympics I would watch. (Yeah, the rough, grueling decisions that keep me occupied.)

Obviously, the premier figure skating events and the hockey medal games are in the latter part of the schedule. Skiing has risen up the priority list with the Lindsey Vonn hype machine overflowing at NASCAR-type speeds.

Really didn’t have much interest in tuning into the Opening Ceremonies – until I learned that luger Nodar Kumaritashvili had been tragically killed in a high-speed training crash earlier Friday.

While doing my due diligence the past few days researching these Olympics, I noticed there had been a lot of concern expressed over the course at the Whistler Sliding Centre, where the luge and bobsledding events take place.

Just Thursday, this quote by Australian women’s luger Hannah Campbell-Pegg in an Associated Press story really jumped out at me.

“I think they are pushing it a little too much,” Campbell-Pegg said. “To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we’re crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives.”

A day later, the words of Campbell-Pegg resonate even louder after the death of Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old from the small country of Georgia.

Kumaritashvili was racing down the frozen course at nearly 90 miles per hour and ran into trouble trying to navigate a curve. He lost control of the sled, went airborne, and collided with an unpadded steel pole. Attempts to save his life were unsuccessful. (Sorry, MrSportsBlog won’t be posting the video – we’re not that desperate for page views.)

It was a bit stunning that the steel poles supporting the course weren’t padded when you factor in the inherent dangers of the event and all the fuss made over the hazards of the course. Think about it – minimal padding costs just might have been enough to save Kumaritashvili’s life.

Instead, he has become the equivalent of the crash-test dummy, as Campbell-Pegg feared could happen. If I was a luger or bobsleddeder, I would have major concerns about competing on this course. It just isn’t worth risking your life.

Kumaritashvili’s death prompted me to tune into the beginning of NBC’s coverage and I was impressed with how the network handled the tragedy.

Instead of wasting time hyping the Opening Ceremonies, Bob Costas opened the broadcast by getting right to the news and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams had a lengthy report on the tragedy, beginning eloquently with how the Opening Ceremonies face a “tough tone to overcome tonight.”

What you received was well-done journalism instead of glossed-over television packaging that often permeates the broadcast medium. Great move by NBC.

When the Georgia team took its turn entering Vancouver’s BC Place, you could sense how rough a walk that was for the athletes, who wore black armbands to honor Kumaritashvili. There weren’t the frantic waves and happy expressions that you saw from the other nations or from superstars like American Shaun White.

The Georgia team had a lot more than a festive atmosphere on its mind – the death of a countrymate.

Tiger Woods and his conglomerate of PR flacks and other bobos (advisors doesn’t seem to fit) are more interested in delivering spin than revealing the truth about the golf icon’s weird car accident in the middle of the night last Friday. That alone tells you there’s a lot more to the story.

And that Woods is scared out of his mind that whatever it is will eventually leak out.

Regardless, his reputation is now buried in the sand trap and there’s nothing he can do but settle for a triple bogey. And now with at least one woman ready to come out of the woodwork and reveal details about a 31-month affair, those scratches on Woods’ face (did they come from the car crash or his wife?) are about to dig deeper under the surface.

The National Enquirer reported that Woods had an affair with a person named Rachel Uchitel — sorry, can’t refer to her as a woman when she looks more like Mick Jagger than a female — and TMZ reported that the car crash occurred after Woods’ wife (Elin Nordegren) got upset about the alleged affair.

So perhaps that truly is why Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a neighbor’s tree in the early hours of Friday morning (good thing Woods isn’t a NASCAR driver if he  can’t do a better job leaving his own driveway). I’m guessing Woods wasn’t speeding away to stand in line for “Black Friday” merchandise and I’m also pretty sure he wasn’t late for a seasonal job at Best Buy.

Now there’s another woman, Jaimee Grubbs, going public about her affair with Woods, reportedly telling a magazine about having sex with Woods 20 times and having over 300 text messages from him. Sounds like Grubbs has stars in her eyes — and dollar signs — and is trying to cash in on the controversy.

Bet you right now she eventually poses in Playboy for some major coin.

As for Woods, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t talk to police about a minor accident like this. It tells you that he has something to hide about what happened regarding the crash or what occurred shortly before the accident. It is almost comical — not to mention very odd — that Woods’ wife allegedly smashed the car window with a golf club to help get Woods out of the car.

Something tells me she was chasing Woods with the golf club BEFORE the crash.

Anyway, Woods goes to great lengths to protect his privacy but perception often becomes reality. And the perception is that Woods is hiding something since he’s gone into hiding as opposed to being a stand-up guy and facing questions.

He’s about to find that network and entertainment reporters are going to press for answers a lot more aggressively than the golf writers who hang on his every word and throw softball questions at him from tourney to tourney.

I saw Woods in action live while covering the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. You may recall he won that tournament on the 91th hole — outdueling Rocco Mediate — while playing with major knee and lower-leg injuries. It was an incredible performance.

But I also saw that every press briefing he held was in a controlled environment. There were no one-on-one opportunities with Woods — as there were with nearly everyone else — and he seemed to want to get things over with as quickly as possible. He also would find an opportunity to make a jab or say something funny off a question, figuring the humorous comment would be the sound bite shown on television.

You know — because it’s all about the image. There are sponsors to appease and nothing matters more than keeping the Woods’ empire happy as the dollars flow in.

Well, Woods has some cleaning up of the image to do because right now, it’s buried in the rough. It looks like Tiger’s private life has been caught by the tail — or is it the tale?