Tuesday, August 5, 2003
Extra Point/ESPN Sportsbeat for July 15-31
Smith: Sellout is the norm
THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2003
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (morning): "In television journalism, we all chase the big 'get.' Barbara and Connie and Diane are on daily quests to land the biggest or most controversial subject of the moment. Sports television is no different. The stakes are high, and the tactics can be ugly. In courting Michael Jordan's former mistress, one national morning show offered her a shopping spree in New York, a chance to see the show from 'behind the scenes' and, of course, a chance to 'tell her story.' So far, she has declined. The same has been offered to the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant case and potential witnesses and friends, some of whom have accepted the offers. The paying tabloids have been out in force, too, offering up to $10,000 to those same people. From what I can tell, nobody has sold out. That's unusual. Remember how many got paid during the O.J. Simpson investigation? To me that says something about the people of Eagle County, Colo. Either they don't know anything, or they're protecting what little integrity is left in the case."
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (afternoon): "Trung Canidate -- one of the new Washington Redskins, one of the many new Washington Redskins -- got his bell rung, his equilibrium knocked all out of whack, by a teammate in Redskins training camp. Trung, who runs a 4.25 40, was speeding down the sidelines when somebody cleaned his clock. Blllaaaam! One of the dozens of training camp hits like that every year, and every year after practice when the coach gets a microphone in his face, he responds like Steve Spurrier. 'Well, we're all a team, and that's one of those hits you don't like much.' Riiiight, and the ol' ball coach loves a good three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust running game. Coaches love it when players deliver the lullaby, night-night hit in camp. Love it when players get into fights in practice. It shows intensity; a guy wants the job. 'If I hit my teammate like that, what do you think I'm going to do to somebody with a different jersey on?' Don't get it twisted. A bangin' hit in training camp, if it's clean, is duly noted. Coaches just never admit it to us."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "So you just won the Super Bowl. What's your reward? A trip to Disneyland? No, that's just for the quarterback. How about star treatment? Well, unless you're Warren Sapp, it doesn't last very long. Instead, how about a 14-hour plane flight in the middle of summer followed by a 90-minute bus trip from a strange airport? That's just what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got yesterday as they made their way to Japan for Saturday's exhibition opener against the New York Jets. As if all that weren't enough, the two teams will play at 6 o'clock Saturday evening. So what, you ask? Let's not forget these guys live in the Eastern time zone, where it'll be 5 o'clock Saturday morning. That's when you can watch the game live on ESPN2. If you want to see the game at a decent hour, ESPN will have it Saturday night. That's when the two teams will be in mid-air to fly back home. So what gives? Why all the trouble for one exhibition game? As strong as the NFL is in the United States, it has yet to make in-roads on soccer and even basketball overseas. The NFL Europe League is in constant danger of folding, and even this Saturday's exhibition opener in Japan has been tweaked. The Buccaneers and Jets will play at a more fan-friendly time of 6 o'clock Tokyo time. That's so the NFL can create a fan buzz with T-shirts and caps and footballs flying all over the place outside the Tokyo Dome. It's all about generating more yen, which translates to more dollars, which translates to helping a bottom line that may be in some peril. According to Business Week, the TV networks are losing billions on sports these days. Yes, the NFL continues to generate big ratings, and yes, it produces the No. 1 TV show every year with the Super Bowl. But the cost to put the games on TV may be too much for advertisers to cover, and stockholders are taking notice. Every dollar counts these days, even when it comes to 'King Football.' Remember that as you're looking for the Bucs and Jets in the wee hours Saturday morning."
Wilson: Flawed NFL guidelines
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "The NFL has come down hard on the Detroit Lions for the team's perceived failure to follow the league's diversity policy, but what really is the message being sent? The league wants to make sure that minority candidates are being considered for jobs throughout the NFL, but the guidelines to implement the policy are flawed. The Lions have exhibited no signs of racial exclusion -- in fact, they appear to have one of the better records in minority hiring -- but when Matt Millen hired Steve Mariucci without interviewing any minority candidates, the league hit him with a $200,000 fine. The Lions wanted Mariucci from the start and everybody knew it, so no other candidates of any color agreed to be interviewed. Should the Lions have been disingenuous and kept calling around just to find a minority candidate to interview, knowing they wanted to hire Mariucci? That's the message the league has sent. The NFL is right to push teams on the issue of diversity in hiring but wrong to use interviews as a litmus test. Promoting diversity is about fairness and opportunity, not the appearance of it."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "The year is 2003 -- no time for Neanderthal thinking in football training camps. You can't reasonably stand there as an NFL coach and have large men in pads running around fields twice a day in searing summer heat. That's especially so in an era when illegal Ephedra use makes a player more vulnerable along with intense pressures to gain or lose weight, but few have learned within the NFL culture. Two years after 335-pound lineman Korey Stringer collapsed and died in Vikings camp, players still are treated like meat and still are collapsing. Jacksonville, Fla., is brutally hot in mid-summer, a place where extra precautions are necessary. Yet twice in three days, two super-sized linemen collapsed in Jaguars camp. Thank goodness John Henderson and Larry Smith are going to be fine, but let this serve as another warning. How about backing off on a two-a-days, using more indoor facilities, having more night practices? How about easing the training-camp load before someone else dies? Buffalo Bills coach Gregg Williams used to be one of the Neanderthals, forcing his players to endure 10 two-a-days. Now he has all but eliminated them, emphasizing hydration over torture. There's one smart guy, but we need more. Many more."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "As pitching matchups go, you can't go wrong with a Randy Johnson road trip into the deep south. But these days, we're not talking Atlanta. I'm talking deep South, as in Miami. 'The Big Unit' makes his third start since coming off the disabled list when the Arizona Diamondbacks visit rookie phenom Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins. It's funny how we've heard a whole lot more about Willis this summer than Johnson. Knee injuries have a way of taking you out of the limelight. But while Willis chugs along with his nine wins, let's not forget that 'The Big Unit' has never lost to the Marlins. Never. In nine career starts, he's 6-0 with a 1.38 ERA against 'The Fish.' Still, these aren't the same ol' Marlins. At 58-49, they're having their best season since they won the World Series six years ago, and they find themselves only one game out of the wild-card lead in the National League with the D-Backs only another two games back. You can see the Marlins and D-Backs tonight at 7 Eastern on ESPN2.
"So Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer is ready to pay Rupert Murdoch more than 400-million dollars to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and the team's spring-training property in Florida. There are still plenty of obstacles, not the least of which is the NFL's cross-ownership policy. It says an NFL owner can't have a team in another sport unless it's in the same city. So let's cut to the chase: How soon does Glazer put a football team in L.A.? It won't be the Buccaneers, but he could sell the Bucs, then he could buy an existing or expansion franchise and plunk it down in L.A. You'd better believe an Al Davis lawsuit wouldn't be far behind, but Glazer is hardly afraid of the silver and black. Remember, he took on Al just last year when he took Jon Gruden from Oakland, then used him to beat Al in the Super Bowl. What all this could mean is a bidding war and a lucrative race to bring pro football back to Los Angeles, something commissioner Paul Tagliabue can't forget."
Wingo: Non-performing driver
TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2003
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning): "After complaining all summer about the drivers in other people's hands, Tiger Woods has finally taken matters into his own hands -- or rather, out of them. At the 'Battle at the Bridges' Monday night and for at least the foreseeable future, Tiger has turned on 'The Swoosh.' Out with the Nike driver, and in with his old Titleist driver. This despite the fact that Tiger is paid some $20 million a year to play with Nike clubs. But here is the beauty of being Tiger: Nike pays him to play their clubs only if he likes them, and Tiger hasn't liked his driving all stinking year. Twenty fourth in Tour in driving distance, but more telling, 128th in driving accuracy. With those stats, it's a miracle that he's one once, yet alone a PGA-best four times in this the season of his slump -- if you believe those who are clueless. Nike says they expect Tiger to keep hitting a Titleist through at least the PGA Championship, but if he wins the year's fourth major, expect it to be for a lot longer. Tiger likes the smaller clubface on the older drivers, and if he can return to form off the tee, can many more majors be far behind?"
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "One would think they must be all sold out of antacid tablets in Beaverton, Ore., the home of Nike's corporate headquarters. That is where they sign checks made out to Tiger Woods totaling $20 million every year. That is also where every effort to make a driver Tiger can play with has failed. It was only an exhibition last night in California, but Tiger Woods had not one but five Titleist clubs in his bag, including, for the first time in 19 months, a Titleist driver with a smaller head than the ones being made by Nike. Now Tiger Woods is not contractually obligated to use Nike golf clubs, but you just know that with folks like me telling the world he has gone back to the Titleist driver, they have got to be more than a little upset in Beaverton. Take a gander at the latest Tour stats. Tiger Woods is now 24th in driving distance. He is being outdriven by guys you never heard of. So it's the Titleist driver, 3-wood, wedges and putter now being toted around by Stevie Williams. Can the Pro V1 be far behind?"
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "The biggest news in golf again is Tiger Woods. No, it wasn't a major, but last night he and Ernie Els lost to Sergio García and Phil Mickelson in the 'Battle at the Bridges.' Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- noticed that Tiger tossed aside his underperforming Nike driver and retrieved his old Titleist 975-D. Tiger will probably keep the Titleist in his bag for next month's PGA, which brings us to this: Since he conquered Bethpage 13 months ago, Tiger has been stuck on eight career majors. I think everyone just assumed this kid was going to just waltz past Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 -- not to mention Jack's 19 other majors in which he finished second. What I'm saying here and now is not so fast, my friends. While he's been fussing with his equipment and accusing guys of cheating, Tiger has watched Rich Beem, Mike Weir, Jim Furyk and Ben Curtis claim golf's biggest prizes. Not exactly the most distinguished list of champions of all time. Couldn't Tiger have beaten just one of them? Folks, this isn't a slump. This is pressure. It's what you perceive you should be able to do, and you battle your own personal demons when you can't do it. As Tiger Woods is learning all over again, pressure is the toughest opponent he'll have on ANY golf course.
"While the Braves and Giants are already talking magic numbers, baseball's other division leaders are feeling the heat. The Astros' NL Central lead over Saint Louis is only three games as they head into Atlanta tonight. In the American League, the Yankees and Red Sox are destined for a photo finish, the A's have pulled within three of Seattle, and we may be witnessing the Royals' inevitable collapse. But let's be fair and give the Chicago White Sox their due as they head into Kansas City tonight to try and cut into the Royals' four-game lead. In winning nine of their last 10, the White Sox are making Robbie Álomar and Carl Everett look like the bargains of the year. By the way, who'da thought the South Siders would be closer to first place right now than the Cubbies?"
LeBatard: The Shockey story
MONDAY, JULY 29, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "Jeremy Shockey is a flourescent player with a big game, big personality and big mouth, but would he be getting all this pub at a benign position like tight end if it weren't for his skin color and the New York-centric bias of the media machine? We've seen this before from this city and this team. Novelty Jason Sehorn, a white man at what has become a black man's position, somehow parlayed merely decent talent into a marriage proposal to Angie Harmon on 'The Tonight Show' when he wasn't getting beaten for touchdowns in the Super Bowl. We can talk all about energy and fire, but bottom line: Shockey had two touchdown catches last year. Two. That's fewer than Jed Weaver. He fumbled more times than he scored. He's going to be great if New York's intoxicants don't pollute him, but shouldn't we first be celebrating the tight end in Kansas City? You know. The better one?"
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (afternoon): "Perhaps the Mets brass should have heeded the advice of the greatest four-man rotation to play Shea Stadium -- the Beatles -- who sang 'money can't buy me love.' The Mets' attempts to keep up with their Bronx neighbors resulted in an uninspired, overpaid group with less chemistry than an empty test tube. Roberto Álomar, Jeromy Burnitz, Mo Vaughn, Tom Glavine, Roger Cedeño and Cliff Floyd failed to produce the necessary magic to compete with the Yankees. Mercifully, the Mets brass decided to cut their mounting losses and ship some of their disappointing acquisitions to other teams and build for the future, but one key move remains to be made. Mike Piazza is fearsome in the batter's box, a leader in the clubhouse, but at 34 with bad knees, his trade value diminishes each day. If the Mets are truly committed to rebuilding, they should trade their most marketable commodity to an AL contender for some prospects. If the Mets can't compete with the Yankees, the least they can do is help another team catch them."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "It may have looked like just another summer weekend to you, but a closer look reveals three standouts worthy of our occasional medals. By the way, if you're already guessing who gets the gold, you're absolutely right. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let's start with the bronze, which goes to a pitcher who wasn't even good enough for the Detroit Tigers. Did you forget that José Lima was a cast-off from the team with the worst record in the bigs? Lima had even accused Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski of getting him blackballed, a charge Dombrowski says isn't true. You can call it revenge if you want. You can also call it baseball's best comeback of 2003, as Lima won his seventh straight start for the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. Appropriately enough, it was in Detroit.
"I'm not sure what's a bigger comeback -- a guy who was with the Newark Bears this spring, or a guy who spent more than a few occasions working in the booth with me. Our silver medal goes to 49-year-old Peter Jacobsen, my old broadcasting partner who won the Greater Hartford Open yesterday for his first Tour victory in eight years.
"Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France, and yes, this is a recording. Five in a row for sport's most famous cancer survivor. While we are left to wonder what's next, whether he'll make it an unprecedented six times next year, we are also left with this question: What does this guy have to do to get the respect he deserves? Yes, he's been named Man of the Year and Sportsman of the Year and Athlete of the Year, and if there was a vote on the best of this century, he and Tiger Woods might have the early lead, but is that really enough praise for what this guy has done? The problem here isn't so much the sportsman as it is the sport. Here in America, we just don't understand things like pelotons and team time trials and such. One thing's for sure down in Austin, though. To paraphrase the old Montréal Canadiens used to say, Lance's victory parade will take place on the usual route."
Schaap: Mets look like Monkees
SATURDAY, JULY 26, 2003
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "Perhaps the Mets brass should have heeded the advice of the greatest four-man rotation to play Shea Stadium -- the Beatles -- who sang 'money can't buy me love.' Ás the Mets' attempts to keep up with their Bronx neighbors resulted in an uninspired, overpaid group with less chemistry than an empty test tube. Roberto Álomar, Jeromy Burnitz, Mo Vaughn, Tom Glavine, Roger Cedeño and Cliff Floyd failed to produce the necessary magic to compete with the Yankees. Mercifully, the Mets brass decided to cut their mounting losses and ship some of their disappointing acquisitions to other teams and build for the future, but one key move remains to be made. Mike Piazza is fearsome in the batter's box, a leader in the clubhouse, but at 34 with bad knees, his trade value diminishes each day. If the Mets are truly committed to rebuilding, they should trade their most marketable commodity to an AL contender for some prospects. If the Mets can't compete with the Yankees, the least they can do is help another team catch them."
Smith: A case of ethics, schmethics
FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2003
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith from Los Angeles (morning): "Here in Los Angeles, athletes are either good or bad -- or good until they are charged with murder, rape or excessive promiscuity -- some nitwit, radio talk-show host has decided he can change the unwritten but well-followed code of ethics to not report the name of an alleged victim in a sex-assault case. The ethical and responsible media outlets are keeping that name from the general population to protect that person from having his or her life potentially ripped apart for a second time. Before we agreed on this, very few victims came forward for fear of being ostracized by people who knew them, because being a victim of a sex crime still carries a hurtful stigma. Mr. Radio Neanderthal, however, has decreed that because rape is an act of violence, the alleged victim in the Kobe Bryant case should not be afforded that same protection. Let's hope that he or members of his family are never in the situation where some publicity-seeking jackass feels the need to put himself in the public eye at the expense of their privacy in a time of trauma."
Extra Point -- John Anderson (afternoon): "Throw out the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, then launch a home run to win the game in the home half of the inning. Barry Bonds certainly knows how to spend a birthday at the ballpark. Thirty nine and very fine. In fact, because of Bonds, the Giants completed a sweep of the second-place Diamondbacks Thursday and now own a Pacific Ocean-sized lead in the NL West. This is a club that has only three and some days four everyday players remaining from last year's National League champions. The pitching rotation is a mess because of injuries, not to mention the guy currently leading the NL in wins -- Russ Ortiz -- left San Francisco during the off-season. And the manager that got the Giants within a game of a world championship now works in Chicago. And yet, the Giants still have the NL West's best record because GM Brian Sabean was brilliant enough to simply re-tool his club around Bonds. Take the best player of his generation, and let him make the complementary players around him better. Hmmm. Guess Barry Bonds is a great teammate after all."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Is there a better story in baseball right now than the Kansas City Royals? Heading into the last week of July, K.C. is still comfortably in front in the American League Central. Not bad for a team in a small market, one of those teams that commissioner Bud Selig always is saying doesn't have a chance to compete. Not bad for a team whose opening-day starter, Runelvys Hernández, was so obscure, the most powerful sports web site in the country -- ESPN.com -- couldn't even find a head shot to put up. Whether or not the Royals make it all the way to the finish line this year is irrelevant. Remember, it was two years ago the Twins were the surprise team in baseball, then failed down the stretch. But in 2002 the Twins learned from their mistakes in 2001 and made it all the way to the ALCS. With young players like Ángel Berroa and Carlos Beltran lighting things up for K.C., and with Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa soon on their way back from injury, the future for the first time in a long time is looking up in Kansas City.
"Up in training camp at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., the future of the St. Louis Rams is taking shape, and it has nothing to do with unsigned rookies or first- or second-year players. The Rams' immediate future is all about veterans Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk. Both are former league MVPs, but both have something to prove. Warner was beaten and battered last season, playing quarterback more like Kurt Russell than Kurt Warner. Can he still be the accurate passer that led the rams to two Super Bowls in three years? And Marshall Faulk is now 30, ancient when it comes to running backs. Yes, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith and John Riggins all produced multiple, 1,000-yard rushing seasons after 30, but none of them caught the ball as much as Faulk will for St. Louis. Together in pristine shape, they are unbeatable, but the question for the Rams this summer: Will Warner and Faulk be the glory players of old -- or just old players? A franchise's future hangs in the balance."
McKendry: The eternal Orosco
THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (morning): "Teams are always on the lookout for the next young thang, but if a pennant is within sight, management views experience with higher regard. Exhibit A: The Dodgers acquire 44-year-old Rickey Henderson to jump-start the offense. Henderson says scoring runs is his forte. He homered his first night with L.A. Exhibit B: The Yankees trade for 46-year-old lefty reliever Jesse Orosco. Orosco was born in 1957, when the Dodgers resided in Brooklyn, and New York was home to three professional baseball teams. Sixty-nine current major-leaguers, including Albert Pujols, were born after Orosco made his debut in 1979 with the Mets. Orosco calls joining the Yankees and having a chance to win a ring too much to pass up, adding, 'I don't know how long I'll be doing this.' So long as his left arm doesn't fall off and there's a pennant in sight, Orosco will be pitching for as long as he wants. You see, flavors of the month are fine -- so long as the month isn't October."
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (afternoon): "Analyzing trades has always been one of the fun aspects of being a fan. It used to be easy. When a trade would come along, you could match up the players and evaluate their production, factor in their age and team chemistry issues, and at the end of the day decide which team got the better of the deal. But as an NBA fan, it's no longer enough to be an astute judge of talent; you have to factor in the complicated, salary-cap implications. Take the four-way deal completed last night in which the Atlanta Hawks traded Glenn Robinson and received Terrell Brandon. The Hawks gave up a 30-year-old, 20-point scorer for a player who likely will retire. Brandon missed last year due to repeated knee injuries and isn't expected to play again. The fact is he's more valuable to the Hawks if he never plays a minute because it frees up his $11 million-plus contract early next year. NBA trades used to hinge on evaluating the players in a trade. Today it's about evaluating their contracts, and that's taken a lot of fun out of it."
SportsBeat -- Trey Wingo substituting for Brent Musburger (afternoon): "The Chicago Cubs brought in Dusty Baker this spring to revitalize the franchise and get them back into the playoffs for the first time since 1998, and they haven't stopped there. The trade to bring both Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramírez to Wrigley could be just what the Cubbies' faithful have needed. In Lofton you get a sure-fire lead-off man who easily could've been the Pirates' All-Star rep over reliever Mike Williams. Lofton and Dusty worked wonders together last season in San Francisco. No reason to think that they won't feed well off each other again. And Aramis Ramírez may also find himself in a feeding frenzy in Chicago, but not because of Dusty Baker. A Dominican, Ramírez will now be in the same lineup as two of his countrymen -- Moises Alóu and Sammy Sosa. The three of them together might work the same kind of magic that so many of the Latin players have managed to do in Montréal. Combine that revitalized offense with the pitching of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior -- provided that Prior is healthy -- and the Cubs could easily steal the NL Central, which is still entirely up for grabs heading into August.
"Will this finally be the year for K.G. and Minnesota? Seven straight playoff seasons; seven straight first-round losses. As 'The Big Ticket' heads into the final year of his contract with the Wolves, Minnesota is doing everything possible to let K.G. know they're serious about going deeper into the postseason. Sam Cassell will now run the point, Mike Olowokandi replaces Rasho Nesterovic in the middle, and now Latrelle Sprewell is heading there, as well. Suddenly, the idea of doubling up Garnett and forcing either Wally Szczerbiak or Troy Hudson to beat you doesn't look so good. Minnesota will be better and could go a lot farther in the playoffs next spring. Then again, they have to, because if they don't, don't count on Garnett sticking around. The franchise's best player ever will be looking for the best opportunity."
Davis: Blowing off Hartford
WEDNESDAY, JULY 23, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (morning): "Ben Curtis was a breath of fresh air when he came from virtual obscurity to win the British Open on Sunday. He was hemorrhaging strokes down the stretch at Royal St George's but was just good enough to score an improbable victory. It was exciting stuff watching his reaction to winning and his sudden celebrity, but it isn't quite so much fun today. It turns out Ben Curtis isn't that much of a breath of fresh air, after all. Yesterday the game's newest star did what most of the game's top stars do on an annual basis -- he blew off Hartford. A previous commitment to show up mattered not. The British Open champion is a millionaire now and no longer has to honor his commitments. He is exempt into the next 10 British Opens and into the next five Masters and U.S. Opens, so why show up in Hartford -- a 52-year-old event now struggling to hang on, an event which could have used this breath of fresh air? Ben Curtis will probably be grateful for a chance to play in a future GHO -- but not at the moment thank you, and that's a shame."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "Call me a nerd, a geek, a hopeless romantic, but I'm a sucker for ballparks -- and a discriminating one, at that. When I first heard about the new seats above the Green Monster at Fenway Park, I chuckled, then cringed. Wasn't this a blatant example of greed ravaging another sports landmark? Did the well-heeled Boston Red Sox really have to install 273 seats atop baseball's most famous wall and charge $50 a pop? Besides, I'm from Chicago. Isn't it my civic duty to defend all things Wrigley? Like any sports writer on vacation, I had to see for myself. I fished the Internet -- Monster seats are sold out for the year -- and bought seven last Sunday. We climbed the stairs, surveyed the green expanse, expected the worst -- and almost fainted in awe. You're literally on top of the ballgame, intimate with the action. Home-run balls that used to fly into the net now are fought over by a handful of lucky souls. During my game I had a perfect view of two circus catches. You have your own concession stand, a barstool seat, a Boston panorama at your back. Heaven, 37 feet above earth. Let them build pools in Phoenix, coves in San Francisco and hotels in Toronto. I'll take the 'Monstah' seats -- a bargain, I dare say, at $50."
SportsBeat -- Trey Wingo substituting for Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Waco, Texas, is normally a sleepy little town roughly halfway between Dallas and Austin. Baylor University is normally a rather quiet, private, Baptist university with a different agenda than most schools involved in the big-time business of college athletics in the extremely powerful Big 12 Conference. Yet now, under the most unpleasant circumstances possible, the basketball program and the entire athletic department have the nation's eye staring straight down upon them. All we know for sure is that a Baylor basketball player is missing, presumed murdered by one of his teammates. How could this have possibly happened? Reports had Patrick Dennehy telling his coaching staff that he feared for his safety. Other reports have the alleged murderous teammate, Carlton Dotson, telling authorities he was hearing voices. Baylor athletics have been less than stellar since moving to the Big 12, and now they face the heinous idea of one teammate actually killing another. How the athletic department handles this situation may very well decide whether or not Baylor will continue at any significant level to participate in big-time college sports. Not exactly your average summer on the Brazos River.
"The late, great George Young used to have a phrase for people worried about No. 1 picks in the NFL remaining unsigned late in July. 'Wait for Bastille Day," he would say. 'After Bastille Day, then you can start to worry.' Ladies and gentlemen, Bastille Day has come and gone. It's time for many teams to start worrying. An overwhelming majority of No. 1 picks remain just picks and not signed players. Making matters worse, the NFL's rookie money pool is basically the same as it was a year ago. Combine that with agents looking for more for their clients this year than last, and you've got a real problem. In other words, there's really no room to maneuver, which means this year rooks will either take what last year's rookies got or sit out a long while. If you were hoping for a first-year player to significantly help your team this fall, you may be significantly disappointed."
Wilson: Refreshing riders
TUESDAY, JULY 22, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "As disturbing news stories take center stage in the sports world this morning, let's take a moment to remember that there are some positive, feel-good moments we can grab a hold of. When Tour de France leader Lance Armstrong fell off his bike and slammed to the road after a spectator's outstretched bag caught his handle bars, it was an opportunity for his rival, Jan Ullrich, to make up ground in his race for the title. But instead of taking advantage of Armstrong's misfortune, Ullrich waited with other riders while Lance and another cyclist recovered from the accident and caught up. Ullrich obviously remembered that when he fell in 2001, it was Armstrong who told everyone, 'We can't race until he gets back up.' Here you have incredibly competitive athletes taking part in one of the most grueling and demanding events in the world, yet competing with a sense of honor and respect for their sport and their fellow competitors. To them, it isn't just about winning; it's about how you win. And that's refreshing."
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (afternoon): "Ooooh, scandal. Male-chauvinist pig stuff. A radio DJ. A WNBA superstar. The radio hosts spanks the girl. Wait. Before you call me a pig -- or worse -- it's a bet Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird had made with a radio announcer. If her assist-to-turnover ratio was 2-1 or better, he has to buy season tickets. If it was worse than 2-1, he got to spank her. Now Bird recanted -- she said she wouldn't do it -- but she originally said she was doing it to raise awareness of the WNBA with the radio station's young, male audience, but at what cost? A state senator claims it promotes violence against women, so she decided uh-uh. Look, degrading women is reprehensible, so is beating somebody up, though, and there's a wide gulf between beating somebody up and a charity boxing match with headgear and 20-ounce gloves. It's all a matter of how you define fun. Would I want my daughters getting spanked? Absolutely not. Bird decided not to go through with it. That's on her. By the way, though, she might not have ever had to get spanked. She was winning the bet."
SportsBeat -- Trey Wingo substituting for Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Whether or not Lance Armstrong goes on to win his record-tying fifth straight Tour de France come Sunday, he's already showed us once again what the heart of a champion is made of. Monday during the 15th stage of the Centennial Tour, Lance got knocked down, but just like the good folks from Chumbawumba tell us to, he got up again -- and dusted off his two biggest rivals, increasing his lead in the overall standings from just 15 seconds to over a minute. And Monday's win could be the biggest reason why come Sunday he'll win it all for a fifth straight year. But here's hoping, this Tour, Lance will win something that's managed to elude him the last four years -- the undying respect of the Tour's fans in France. Despite living there part of the year, learning the language and basically going out of his way to accommodate them, the French have, in a large part, looked at Lance with a skeptical, wondering-if-he's-doping eye. Every test he's ever taken has come back clean. Maybe this year the French cycling fans will clean up their impressions of their sport's most dominant athlete.
"It's late July, the time any purist will tell you football is about to begin. NFL training camps opening up all across the country, and this appears to be the summer of the theme 'Can He Still Run?' There's Priest Holmes recovering from hip surgery with the Chiefs, Michael Bennett trying to avoid season-ending, foot surgery with the Vikings, Emmitt Smith trying to hang on for a few more years with the Cardinals, and cornerback Rondé Barber trying to give the Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers something from the backfield, because they lost out on signing Emmitt, and last year's leading rusher Michael Pittman is facing multiple felony-assault charges. Don't buy into the myth; quarterbacks are great, but a ground game wins you games in the NFL, and this summer several teams' seasons will be made or broken before they break camp. If the foot soldiers they have can't go, their seasons won't be going anywhere by the time January rolls around."
LeBatard: Life in prism
MONDAY, JULY 21, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "Kobe's wife wasn't the only one betrayed here, you know? So Kobe makes the big jump now -- from athlete to issue. He is the newest John Rocker, Latrell Sprewell, Danny Almonte, Ray Lewis -- only bigger. He morphs right before our eyes into programming, his image shredded in the unforgiving maw of the gluttonous and insatiable media machine. Kobe won't be merely devoured by sports-hate radio or the argument culture that surrounds it, though. He leaps from the celebratory confines of the sports section into the discussion around the office water cooler, too. And he also makes his way into the life of the Des Moines housewife who doesn't follow sports but can't get enough of the soap operas. Athletes can't make this transcendent jump by passing out turkeys, by visiting hospitals, by being involved in anything good. They have to become the face of a larger issue, whether it be Rocker on race or Kobe on rape. Someone with small fame can make the leap with a big crime the way Rae Carruth did with murder, and someone with big fame can make it with a small crime the way Sammy Sosa did with cork. Either way, though, they become starting points that allow us to examine other parts of America -- and ourselves -- through the prisms of celebrity and athletics. "
Extra Point -- Chris Moore (afternoon): "Ben Curtis, No. 396 in the world coming in, goes out the British Open champion with a firm grasp of the Claret Jug and a firm understanding of how this game works. As much as Tiger has spoiled us over the past few years, we must remember -- and if you play, you're reminded every time you take to the links -- that golf, especially in the majors, is a game of mistakes. Make fewer, play smart, and let the chips fall. Well, they fell in favor of Curtis and sort of underscored the point we made a few weeks ago about the nature of this game. Could Annika Sorenstam have made the cut at the Colonial several weeks ago? Sure. Would it have meant anything on a one-time basis? No. Getting hot is part of the game. Lipping out three-footers is, too. Maybe now we are getting some kind of perspective on just how good Tiger Woods has been over the last five years. It is news that he has gone five majors in a row without a win. After watching yesterday, you get a real sense of just what a compliment that is."
SportsBeat -- Trey Wingo substituting for Brent Musburger (afternoon): "The names read off, one more amazing than the next: Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open, Jack Fleck at the 1955 U.S. Open, John Daly at the '91 PGA, and now Ben Curtis at the 2003 British Open. But Ben may be the single, most surprising major champion of all time. On Sunday he had four of the top 10 players in the world staring him down, including No. 1 Tiger. Now would be a good time to point out that Ben's ranking in the world at the time was 396th, and Curtis outplayed them all. Not bad for a guy who's biggest win before this was on the Hooter's Tour. Not bad for a guy who only got into the Open thanks to a 13th-place finish at the Western Open two weeks ago. On Sunday Ben Curtis' life changed forever, but the real winner Sunday and all weekend long was the course at Royal St. George's going into the 132nd Open. Those in the know were telling anyone who would listen the quirky links at Sandwich would decide the winner on the basis of the many humps and hollows along the course, and they were right. A quirky course may have just produced the quirkiest major winner of all time.
"Get ready for a daily dose of 'he said, she said' when it comes to the felony charge leveled against Lakers star Kobe Bryant, but for the sake of everybody involved, here's hoping that this case will be decided on the merit of the facts on the particular night that the incident took place and not on the perceived impressions of who Kobe was before the news broke and who the accuser may have been, as well. Already, reports are surfacing about the character of the woman months before the alleged assault. Those rather veiled attempts at character building or destroying may play in the court of public opinion, but when the life of a 24-year-old man with a daughter and the life of a 19-year-old woman are on the line, they should have no play in the court of law. Let this trial be fair, accurate and without slander or defamation of the character of either of the principle parties involved. It's asking a lot, but it's also the way the legal system is supposed to be."
Anderson: The Kobe case
SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2003
Extra Point -- John Anderson (morning): "Felony sexual assault or adultery. It was undoubtedly the latter, and now a jury will decide if Kobe Bryant is guilty of the former. He admits to breaking a Commandment but plans to fight vigorously the charge that he broke the law. In that regard, he says, he did nothing wrong. That for his sin he is only answerable to his wife and his God, and that much is true -- although he will find out soon enough, if he hasn't already, how many other people have an interest in forgving him or holding a grudge. The high praise he heaped on his wife in public July 18 he needed to be more mindful of in private the night of June 30. Regardless of the outcome, Bryant's image is currently in ruins, and while a not-guilty verdict in a trial might rehabiliate that to some degree, there really can be no way Bryant is found innocent. The innocence here for Bryant and his accuser has been lost, and once gone, it is irretrievable. Oh, and the Commandment Bryant broke? It was No. 8."
Schaap: The Return of Rickey
FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2003
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "How do you fix an offense that's scored the fewest runs in the National League? You sign the man who's scored more runs than anyone else in baseball history. At least that was the solution at which the Los Angeles Dodgers arrived. This week they snapped up Rickey Henderson from the Newark Bears. How old is Rickey Henderson? Chronologically, he's 44. Comparatively, he's even older. Older than his general manager. Older than long-retired former teammates such as Don Mattingly. Older than long-retired superstars such as Wayne Gretzky, John Elway and John McEnroe. How old is Rickey Henderson? He's almost as old as Jesse Orosco. Last season in nearly 200 at-bats for the Red Sox, his on-base percentage was higher than Johnny Damon's, Alfonso Soriano's or David Eckstein's. Last night in his Dodgers debut, Henderson didn't score a run, but he went 1-for-4, and the Dodgers won. The greatest lead-off hitter ever is back -- and still getting on base."
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (afternoon): "We in the media are so quick to brand an athlete as a good guy or a bad guy. Kobe Bryant has always been the good guy. Keyshawn Johnson has not. Mainly, he's been labeled a brash, arrogant, mouthy malcontent who cares only about himself and padding his stats. But those are people who don't really know him, and maybe we don't really know Bryant, either. Anyone who spends even a little time with Keyshawn knows that image doesn't matter to him nor do individual accomplishments. All he ever wanted to do as a football player was win the Super Bowl, which he did. All he's ever wanted to do as a businessman is make a difference, which he is -- by developing projects in inner-city Los Angeles, where he was raised. And all he's ever wanted to do as a friend is be a friend. At Wednesday night's ESPYs his crew included a bunch of guys he played high-school football with, his agent and my daughter -- the little girl he babysat 11 years ago -- who needed someone to go with. Maybe we should all refrain from quick judgments until we really get to know someone."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Folks, I don't care what the thermometer says today. The calendar tells me football season is under way. The Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened training camp in Florida this morning, and they do so with a huge cloud hanging over their heads. Starting tailback Michael Pittman needed a judge's permission to join his teammates for a preseason game next month in Tokyo. That's because Pittman allegedly rammed his Hummer into a car carrying his wife and babysitter in Arizona. Two felony charges are pending, not to mention the question of whether Pittman was violating his probation from two other incidents that he was found guilty of two years ago. There's also the matter of a possible league suspension because of this incident, but it looks like this matter won't be resolved until the regular season gets under way. That's just the kind of distraction the defending champs did not need from the man who ran for 124 yards against the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Bucs have insurance in Thomas Jones, who followed Pittman over from Arizona after the Cardinals signed Emmitt Smith. Sounds like this could be a far more interesting summer than Bucs coach Jon Gruden bargained for. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened training camp as a 5-1 favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs, but the other team getting down to business today on the fastest track to the playoffs. Think about it. Who will have an easier path than the Green Bay Packers -- a 15-1 long shot in Las Vegas? You have to think 'The Pack' has the inside track to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Too soon to say that? Consider the rest of the NFC North -- Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota. Sounds like five or six wins right there, even before we get out of July. True, the end is in sight for Brett Favre, but he remains one of the five best quarterbacks in the NFL. Now if they can just solve the likes of Michael Vick, the Packers might just be worthy of the record they're likely to put up this season."
McKendry: Duval watch
THURSDAY, JULY 17, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris McKendry (morning): "David Duval was Tiger Woods' rival. Now his career rivals Ian Baker-Finch's. Like Baker-Finch, Duval is watching his game collapse. Ranked 87th in the world, Duval would have to win eight major championships to get within reach of the world No. 1 spot he held in August 1999. Duval is working with a new swing coach and psychologist. The good doctor says Duval is a very well-adjusted guy with great talent who just needs to relax. In a related note, Greg Norman tells The New York Post that today's young golfers are too stoic. They lack personality and charisma, according to Norman. He compared Tiger's cautious personality to his and the lovably large Craig Stadler's. Norman says today's players need to show more character. In other words, lighten up -- advice similar to the doctor's -- and Duval should try it. Instead of thinking he has no reason to smile, Duval likely has the biggest reason of all: His career may depend on it."
Extra Point -- John Anderson (afternoon): "Kobe Bryant stepped out at the ESPYs in Los Angeles last night while in Vail, Colo., there was still no decision on whether he will be charged in his case of alleged sexual assault. The prosecutor says maybe Friday or perhaps next week. So in the mountain town 100 miles west of Denver a lot of media continues its coverage of very little, but as a waiter at local Mexican restaurant that's doing swell business says, 'You can never have too many tourists,' and that, my friends, might just be the best description I've ever heard of journalists. We are tourists, travelers to a world inhabited by terrifically talented and most often even more terrifically compensated athletes, but we don't live there. Oh, sure, we get to know them, befriend them to some small extent, tell the stories of their exploits famous and infamous, but we are only fooling ourselves and not helping to serve the profession if we believe we really share the same circle. It's the simple difference between their paycheck and our per diem."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Last in the National League in batting average. Last in runs scored. Last in hits. Last in home runs. Last in total bases. Those were the Los Angeles Dodgers before the All-Star break. But fans in Southern California know these aren't your first-half Dodgers anymore. Can Rickey Henderson still make an impact in the big leagues at age 44? Can former Mets outfielder Jeromy Burnitz provide power to a roster hurting from the absence of the injured Fred McGriff? Call them the latest act of a desperate team that has lost 15 of its last 20 games, falling from first place to third in less than three weeks. Manager Jim Tracy gets to try out his newest charges tonight as the St. Louis Cardinals come to Dodger Stadium. Both Henderson and Burnitz have seen better days. Rickey hasn't batted over .300 in four years, and even though Jeromy looked better this year, Milwaukee is the only place where he really looked comfortable. But like I said, the Dodgers offense has been anything but offensive this year, so there's nowhere for these guys to take them but up.
"The Cardinals and the Cubs look loaded for bear, but both of them are looking up at the Houston Astros, who begin the second half with the NL Central lead headed into tonight's visit to Cincinnati. Did the Astros slip under the radar screen here, folks? Maybe it's because the usual suspects aren't the only ones leading them. True, this team has a potent lineup with the likes of Berkman and Biggio and Bagwell and newcomer Jeff Kent, who's quietly hitting .313. But aside from Kent, I'll bet you can't name the other two Astros who are batting over .300. One is outfielder Richard Hidalgo. The other is third baseman Morgan Ensberg, a 27-year-old out of USC who looks like a bargain at $300,000 this year. With Roy Oswalt playing the role of ace and Billy Wagner coming out of the bullpen, maybe the Astros have what it takes to emerge from what promises to be an air-tight race this summer in the NL Central."
Davis: Calm down, bootlickers
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (morning): "Tiger Woods' dominating performance in the Western Open shows he can still win ordinary Tour events, but does it signal that he is ready to again dominate the majors? We won't get all the Tiger Woods sycophants in a tizzy by using the 's' word, but his lordship has now failed to win the last four majors. It could reasonably be argued that this has a great deal to do with the very selective scheduling of his time. He wasn't much in the U.S. Open after finding other things to do for most of the weeks following The Masters, but Woods had played a lot by the time they teed up at Cog Hill, and it showed. He has played three of the last five events going into tomorrow's first round of the British Open. Even the great Tiger Woods can't just flip a switch and win a major. He has to be more committed to the game over a greater number of events. It's perfectly OK to measure Tiger Woods in terms of success in majors. He's that good. He wanted to be measured by his majors success. If he put any stock in how he fares on the regular tour, he'd show up more often."
Extra Point -- Jay Mariotti (afternoon): "You couldn't miss the big banner. It hung on the outfield fence where every player could see it. 'This time it counts,' it said, as if warning the assembled talent to care -- or else. Turns out the instructions weren't necessary. The All-Star Game was worthy of the slogan, producing a thriller that lends credence to Bud Selig's hope the game can be more than a two-day vacation. The players didn't want to hear it, having ripped Selig for placing heightened emphasis on the game and handing home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner. But who can argue with the rally, the result? This time, they cared. So did 'Bud Lite' finally do something right? Well, sort of. I still suspect there's a better way to determine something as vital as World Series home field. Why not include the All-Star result as part of a bigger formula relying mostly on interleague play? That would be a truer, more thorough process. Right now a new cuss phrase is being coined in Atlanta. Say the Braves lose Game 7 to the Yankees in the Bronx. 'Damned Gagné!' they'll mutter. Seems a gopher ball in a July exhibition shouldn't fully impact an October championship. There's no denying we saw a fine All-Star Game. I just hope we didn't see it at the expense of an unfair World Series."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "We take you now to Sunday, Oct. 26. A chilly night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Or perhaps we're glad there's a roof over our heads at Safeco Field in Seattle. As the Braves or Giants take the field, they're muttering one name to themselves, the same name being chanted over and over again in celebration by the fans. 'Hank. Hank. Hank.' In another three months, will we remember the name Hank Blalock? If we get to a seventh game of the World Series, you'd better believe it. We'll be reminded again and again that it was Blalock's summer blast that brought us to the home of the American League champs in the fall. Argue if you will whether that's right or wrong, but one thing's for sure: The 2003 All-Star Game was more entertaining because it was managed differently. Take MVP Garret Anderson. His four at-bats were the most in a nine-inning All-Star Game in five years, and even though it didn't work out for him, Dusty Baker used Billy Wagner and Eric Gagné like he wanted to win. When it comes to the Midsummer Classic, let's hope the days of the Little League-style cameos really are over.
"Tiger Woods is coming off a win two weeks ago at the Western Open. Ernie Els is coming off a wire-to-wire victory last week at the Scottish Open. Does this mean we could get the marquee pairing for the final round of the British Open? Dreams don't always come true, but golf fans have reason to be optimistic that the world's top two golfers could be playing together on Sunday at Royal St. George's. British bookmakers have made Tiger a 9-4 favorite with Els a 7-1 second choice. As Els bids to become the Open's first repeat winner since Tom Watson 20 years ago, Woods is trying to win his first major in more than a year. So how does this links course set up for him? Good question. After getting his first look at it Sunday, Tiger admitted he didn't know which way to go on some holes, but he did say the conditions reminded him of St. Andrews. Yes, the same St. Andrews where Tiger won by eight shots three years ago."