July 17, 2006
Mariano Rivera:
Hall of Fame lock becomes 4th reliever ever to notch 400 saves. As Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski bluntly put it: "He's got 400 saves, basically, with one pitch."
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Yarrrgh: Pirate-mania (via Johnny Depp, et al) continues to sweep the country today as THE entertainment story of the year.

This weekend, the sequel to "Pirates of the Caribbean" became the No. 1 movie of the year and in only 10 days has approached box office revenue of nearly $300 million (or more than six times what the Pittsburgh Pirates will spend on payroll this season).

So if Depp's "Jack Sparrow" is America's new hero, displacing Jack Bauer, Jack Wagner and everyone else, here's the question:

Who's the more unrepentantly flamboyant pirate icon:

"Sparrow" or "Bucco Bruce," the dandified pirate who served as the Tampa Bay Bucs' logo for 20 years?

Jack: Traditional 3-pointer
Bruce: Rakishly tilted/plumed
Edge: Bucco Bruce

Object in Mouth
Jack: Gold fronts
Bruce: Cutlass
Edge: Jack

Jack: Mascara
Bruce: Hoop earring
Edge: Bucco Bruce

Jack: Weathered
Bruce: Pastel
Edge: Bucco Bruce

Facial expression
Jack: Smirking
Bruce: Winking
Edge: Bucco Bruce

The ironic part is that Depp's Jack is intended to be flamboyance as satire; Bucco Bruce's flamboyance seemed entirely sincere.

In honor of the topic, today's Big 5 (right) ranks the Top 5 swash-buckling teams in sports.

MLB Hit List
Bonds hits No. 721 off Myers: The catcher must have called for the rare "Catharsis Pitch," where the pitcher hurls a few weeks' worth of off-field burdens at the batter, who takes out a few weeks' worth of upcoming aggression.

(Actually, Myers pitched a good game: 7 IP, 7 K, 5 H, win)

ESPYS Pre-Game Show: If you tuned in to ESPN early last night before the ESPYS, you got some unscheduled fireworks: The Mets scored a franchise-record 11 runs in the 6th, including 2 grand slams (Floyd, Beltran) and a 2-run HR (Wright).

Trendy "Hot" Team: Oakland. Took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox in Boston, including Sunday's 8-1 shellacking that put the A's 1 game up in the AL West, and left the Sox a precarious half-game up in the AL East.

(Memo to Theo: If Kirk Snyder is Boston's answer as a 5th starter, then the question must be: "How will missing the AL wild card feel?")

Record Watch: Chipper Jones. Tied a 79-year-old record held by suddenly relevant oldie Paul Waner by getting an extra-base hit in his 14th straight game (no less than a 2-run HR in ATL's 5th straight W).

(Meanwhile, John Smoltz threw down the gauntlet, saying, "I sure hope we make some moves" for bullpen help. Beats his throwing in the towel by saying he'd be OK if he was traded in the midst of a lost season.)

Today: Cheer or Jeer? What kind of reception will Doug Mientkiewicz get in his first visit back to Fenway since the World Series and the "ball incident?" (Guess: After this weekend's piece in the Boston Globe, not too rosy.)

Kyle Busch: Gets 1st NASCAR W of '06 (at New Hampshire)
Howie Kendrick: Angels rookie 3/4, RBI in first MLB start
Zo Mourning: Ring in hand, he'll be back with '06-07 Heat
Tony Stewart: Dud at NH drops him from Top 10 Chase
Torii Hunter: On DL (off trade block?) with foot fracture
Jai Lewis: George Mason F ends quest to make NFL as TE
Italian Scandal
Credit Italy's sports disciplinarians for two punishments I'd love to see exacted in American sports:

Demotion: Juventus and two other clubs implicated in match-fixing were demoted from Serie A to Serie B.

Imagine if the worst MLB teams were demoted to Triple-A -- or if rule-breaking, big-time NCAA teams were demoted to a non-BCS league.

Punitive Damages: Juventus will be forced to start the season with the equivalent of 10 losses, enough to likely keep them in Serie B for at least one extra year.

(If you're looking for an analogy to American sports, it would be like an NFL team being given 4 losses to start the season, or an MLB team being put 40 games behind the rest of the teams in their league.)

Forget reducing scholarships: Want to scare the bejeezus out of an offending BCS title contender? Slap them with a BCS-imploding loss before the season even starts.

At their essence, sports are about W's and L's. So tying punishment DIRECTLY to the standings is one of the most genius incentives ever.

AI Drama
"I want to be a Sixer," AI said. Seems chummy enough.

"But if I am not wanted, then I definitely don't want to be a Sixer and I am willing to start my career all over." Doh!

I'm not sure the choice is "wanted/unwanted" as much as it is "useful/useless":

The Sixers have gone as far as they ever will with AI (and that was way back in 2001); there's no shame in rebuilding, and that means without him.

(But the Sixers should stop leaving everyone hanging and make a deal already. Just come to grips with it now: They won't get equal value.)

Wie's Withdrawal
If you snickered that Michelle Wie had to drop out of the John Deere on Friday from exhaustion, you should be ashamed of yourself.

I'm not even going to scold you with the idea that she's only 16, or that she's a she. It's simply bad form to jeer an injured athlete.

(Not that I'm anti-jeer, generally: Booing, taunting and griping -- and that's just by fans -- is as integral to sports culture as anything.)

Bonds Indictment
What must it be like to be Bonds' lawyer right now?

On the one hand, you've got to make absurd public statements about how you don't think he'll be indicted, under the flawed logic that if the government had a case, it would have indicted him already.

On the other hand, you've got to set things up for an indictment this week ("Busted or bust!").

The biggest thing his lawyers have going for them is that fans can be expected to yawn through this, much as they yawned through "715."

USA "Oops" Report
First in a new series of occasional reports on USA Hoops, attempting to rebound from humiliation in the 2004 Olympics.

Kobe on USA Hoops has always felt like a suspicious fit, like he was playing for the revamped team more for the P.R. than the P.T.

So the fact that Kobe won't play in this summer's qualifying tournament because of his knee surgery is arguably better for the team.

The team's problem in 2004 wasn't firepower; it was FIT. Mostly, the personnel didn't fit the international game. (But also, Larry Brown was the worst fit possible as coach.) And Kobe's fit is sketchy.

It remains to be seen whether the honchos' focus on "we want players who WANT to be here" will trump the more important issue of picking a roster that can excel in the international style.

If they insist on filling Kobe's role of "designated gunner," they can do a lot worse than Gilbert Arenas, who at least seems genuinely thrilled to be on the training camp roster.

Sumo Mania
Russian sumo wrestler Roho was suspended by the Japan Sumo Association for assaulting two photographers.

Related question: In the hierarchy of photographers being recently attacked, where would being threatened by a sumo wrestler rank?

1. Woody Harrelson
2. Jessica Simpson's goons
3. Sumo wrestler
4. Kenny Rogers

Bruce Arena:
Despite wild World Cup success in 2002, a brutal draw in 2006 doomed the U.S. coach, who won't be retained. Next up for the U.S.: Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann?
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
Page 2 Index
Woj on Notre Dame
Best "Pirate" Teams
Tampa Bay Bucs
Dandified old logo better
Pittsburgh Pirates
Black/gold is classic
Oakland Raiders
Best logo in sports?
Seton Hall Pirates
Also Hampton, E. Carolina
UMass Corsairs
(Dartmouth campus only)

I don't know how they tell how a horse is "in a good frame of mind," but if it's positive news about Barbaro, it's good news for fans.

American Floyd Landis might have been bounced out of the top spot of the Tour de France (for now), but wait until they get back to uphill climbing.

NFL Offseason: The Eagles have reportedly offered 5-time Pro Bowler and longest-tenured player Brian Dawkins a 2-year contract extension.

Who is the greatest celebrity golfer today? Perhaps Jack Wagner, who fended off Billy Joe Tolliver with an 18th-hole birdie to win in Tahoe.

Why does Eric Lindros still fascinate us? After injuring his wrist against the Stars last season, he'll join Dallas on a 1-year deal for '06-07.

Here's to a healthy recovery for Cowboys safety Keith Davis, shot twice while driving on a Dallas highway.

U.S. Softball World Cup Watch: Clobbered nemesis Japan on Sunday, 11-0, with a rematch tonight in the title game. (9, ESPN2)

Finally, look for Jerry Rice to retire as a 49er later this summer, off a one-day contract. No word yet on whether he'll dance at the ceremony.

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