Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

‘Bout Half

Monday, July 6th, 2015

I’ve crawled out of the ocean that is my memoir project (query letter between my teeth, pitching agents any day now) to bring you up to speed on the sports entertainment (operative word!) stories of the first half of 2015 and prepare you for the second half, should I submerge once again.

I’m going backward first, then forward in time, ‘cause that’s how I’m rolling. Hopefully you aren’t on your fourth Mr. Pineapple, too fuzzy to take in all the news.

First, the US won the Women’s World Cup! They crushed Japan 5-2 and US player Carli Lloyd scored a hat-trick in arguably the most important game of her life, in a sport where the final score combined is often less than three goals.

JUNE: The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. Apparently Blackhawks player Teuvo Teravainen told Finnish media that female Blackhawks fans are “quite horny.” Mr. Teravainen is all of 20 years old, so I’m going with the pot calling the kettle black.Eat your (Farmers Market) veggies!

Deadly food is the trend in baseball this summer. These items individually would fulfill your daily caloric needs (not including veggies).

MAY: Several top FIFA officials, including one who runs the US region, were arrested. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, is facing corruption charges from the FBI. Suspicions were initially raised by the award of the World Cup 2018 to Russia. The Swiss are investigating that decision as well as the bid won by Qatar to host the 2022 Cup. Best related quote:

Awarding the World Cup to Qatar was like awarding [baseball’s] World Series to Martha’s Vineyard.

On the same day American Pharoah won the Triple Crown – the first in 37 years – the biggest boxing disappointment ever occurred. Despite the record-breakingly high viewing price tag, the Mayweather vs. Paciou fight was deemed Better Never Than Late.

Past and future Triple Crown winnersA view of the private jet traffic jam for the Derby proved even private jets get in traffic jams. It made me wonder how many high-profile millionaires managed to fly to both premier events. Confirmed was Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He’s the NFL player who, as it turns out, definitely knew about his deflated balls in the AFC championship game preceding the Patriots’ Super Bowl win.

In cycling, sprinter Peter Sagan won the Tour of California. Yes way! We know Sagan isn’t any ol’ sprinter, though. And top contender Andrew Talansky had to drop out Day One due to respiratory complications. Still, winning a multi-stage race overall isn’t what sprinters do. He’ll be a highlight of the Tour de France frashizzle.

APRIL: A sports power couple has called it quits. I’m guessing Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn separated around the same week Vonn told Seth Meyers she, mmm, loves golf. “I just… [smirk]. I love golf [smirk].” Not two weeks later, Vonn and Woods announced they’d split.

REPRESENT! Caroline Rodich won the Boston Marathon this year. Pretty cool that she lives and trains in Santa Fe, NM, except that during her honorary parade there, some d-bag broke into her car and stole her purse.

At 21, pro golfer Jordan Spieth is the second-youngest winner of the Master’s, just months behind Tiger Woods when he first won. Spieth broke all sorts of records in the process, followed by winning the US Open in June, as did Tiger back in ‘02. And he’s really poised like Tiger was… for now.

MARCH BACK: Nothing happened in the world of sports at all whatsoever. I know the Super Bowl took place, but enough about balls already.

Onward!

JULY: Tour de France! Tour de France! Day One was a time-trial on July 4 in the Netherlands, because it’s almost France. Then the race went through Belgium, because the fans there are cray cray. On the fourth day, the race will see France, where mountaintop fans are just kinky.

As far as I can tell, African Daniel Teklehaimanot of team MTN-Qhubeka is the first Black man to win a WorldTour jersey, earning the polka-dot climber’s jersey at the Dauphine in June. He’ll get a chance to earn the jersey again as the first from the country of Eritrea to compete in the Tour de France (the first Black cyclist in the Tour was Yohann Gène in 2011). This article in Esquire isn’t the only one to explain why a Black cyclist will win overall by 2020.

SEPTEMBER: With nearly 20 years’ experience and a 2013 tryout under her belt, Sarah Thomas has been hired as the first full-time female official in the NFL. She started officiating football after a pastor kicked her off the men’s church league basketball team she was – I’m guessing – a star player for. She’s known for her ability to stay cool. Well, yeah.

SERIOUSLY? Tim Tebow is back in the NFL. He’s the Christian quarterback who would pray on the sidelines and inspired the pose, “Tebowing.” After three years out of the NFL and some work as a college football analyst for ESPN, he’s been signed to a one-year deal as the fourth-string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. In other words, it’ll take a miracle for him to get playing time.

See if you can come up with your own Tebow religious cliché (no offense intended). I’ll start: It’ll be a cold day in hell before Tebow plays! (Too easy?)

GOOD SENSE: We will not be seeing Chris Borland on the football field. He was the fourth NFL player in a week, under the age of 30, to leave the NFL after only one season. He’s put having a healthy brain ahead of a pro football career.

Consider yourself up to speed. I believe the only league I didn’t cover is the NBA. (LeBron didn’t win.) Happy Second Half!

It’s All Good (Happy 2015!)

Friday, January 30th, 2015

If you’ve already had moments when you’re feeling low about blowing your resolution in the first month of the New Year, I have your back.

That’s not who you are. I know it’s not. It’s a temporary setback and as evidence, I recently took a survey and sure enough, your friends say, “Just call him [/her] butter ‘cause he’s on a roll!” And I believed them.

SEMI-SUPER: Let’s face it. The best thing about the lead up to the Super Bowl this year has been the number of times folks have referred to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his balls.

ANYhoo, it’s the Patriots vs. Seattle. If Seattle wins, it’ll be two in a row. The last team to pull that off was… the Patriots! So it should be a pretty dang exciting game with two Super Hungry teams. The Patriots are apparently so hungry, they underinflated their footballs in their AFC Championship game against the Colts. Hence the “Deflategate” controversy and all the attention to Brady’s balls. But the final score in that game was 45-7, so does it matter?

Talk amongst yourselves.

I will say this: If Patriots coach Bill Belichick had anything to do with it, that man needs to be taught a lesson ‘cause it would be second time he’s been caught cheating. As for journalist Peter Alexander, who asked Brady straight up if he was a cheater, "He must be the bus driver cuz he was takin’ him to school."

TREAD LIGHTLY: One of the more curious highlights of my winter holiday was getting kicked off Larry Ellison’s private golf course (most of the palm trees in the banner photo are Ellison’s). Ellison is the founder of Oracle who resigned his post as CEO back in September. He’s one of the richest men in the world, personally valued at a cold $54 billion, according to Forbes. His Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs) 246-acre estate, Porcupine Creek, includes an 19-hole golf course. Obama has played the course.

Turns out the house we rented for the holidays is adjacent to Ellison’s estate, so when we took a little stroll out the back gate and checked out the golf course (someone ought to be appreciating the greenest grass ever, right?!)  we were trespassing. Guess the security cameras should have tipped us off.

FOR THE VIEW: Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are the first people to free climb (gear stops a fall – ideally) Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite, summiting after 19 days and 3,000 feet. Since you’re curious and the recent shenanigans of the Patriots pretty much guaranteed this would be an adolescent-style post, during the climb, Caldwell and Jorgeson slept in a hanging tent pitched on the side of the rock and pooped in ziplock bags.

CLEAN ICE: (Nice segue, right?!) So proud of all the work former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter does to ensure all the beautiful children of my friends and family have quality air and water. Seriously, the man is "as cool as the other side of the pillow."

Here’s Richter’s latest effort and a fun little interview from the New York Times. If you’re really dedicated, scroll down to pages 32-36 and read how I snuck a bit of Richter into my latest article, about architectural salvage. BooYow!”

Speaking of ice, the National Hockey League experienced a rash of mumps. At least six teams (13 players?) and a couple on-ice officials suffered the virus. Even Sidney Crosby had ‘em.

BAD AND BADDER: Those of you with a hole in your soul since Breaking Bad ended, take heart. Better Call Saul premieres February 8 and 9.  (I suspect I’m in the first episode. I’ll be easy to spot.) Here’s a trailer. Looks like a hit!

Speaking of wacky entertainment, have you seen the movie Inherent Vice? Crazy stuff, but guess who’s in it? Keith Jardine! He plays a super scary dude with a swastika tattooed on his face (it’s not permanent). He was also in John Wick with Keanu Reeves in 2014.

Previously, Jardine made a quality run at being a top  MMA star (surprise!), so I interviewed him for Albuquerque The Magazine (May 2008  – sweet Jesus time flies by).  This time last year, Jardine was apprehending a thief outside his Albuquerque home. I dunno about you, but I’d have pooped my ziplock bag if Jardine had “confronted and subdued” me.

WHERE IS SHE NOW? Lindsey Vonn has become the winningest woman skier, currently at 64 World Cup wins. She’s the one who I blogged had blown her knee out in 2013, rehabbed, competed too soon and underwent another surgery on the same ACL. “Fearless” is not an exaggeration of the woman’s brand of fortitude. (She’s still dating Tiger Woods.)

WHERE IS HE NOW? Lance Easley was the NFL replacement ref who made a controversial call, blogged on this site as:

Replacement ref Lance Easley, a bank vice-president who made the infamous call between Seattle and Green Bay (touchdown Seattle), refs junior college games on weekends. On the Today Show he said he still stands by his call.

Since his appearance on the Today Show nearly three years ago, Easley received death threats, took medical leave from his job, and separated from his wife. He’s in treatment for depression and PTSD, growing out his hair, and trying to get his life back. He didn’t abuse a puppy, people. He made an unpopular call in NFL-land.

TIMBITS: I lied a little in my blog heading. It’s not all good. You suspiciously clever readers probably noticed several colorful “quotes” sprinkled in the blog. They come from Stuart Scott. The sports media world lost a talented, innovative and fun personality in Scott, who passed away January 4 at age 49, of cancer. If you’ve ever listened to ESPN, you’ve heard this term of Stuart’s: (No, I didn’t misspell) “Boo-Yow!”

That being said, may your New Year be off to a fantastic beginning. As the year progresses, do what it takes to have a good one ‘cause as the kids say, YOLO! (You Only Live Once!)

Bless You! (Happy Spring)

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Grass never looked so good

Gretzky isn’t a name you associate with baseball unless you effectively go out of your way to avoid sports, yet you’ve inadvertently heard a big name or two. Seriously though, there’s a Gretzky in baseball:

Not only did the Angels trade manager Mike Scioscia’s son, but in return, they received Trevor Gretzky, son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Trevor isn’t the only Gretzky in the news. Mz. Paulina Gretzky, Trevor’s sister, has created a buzz posing scantily clad for Golf Digest – she’s not a golfer (her fiancé is).

In fairness to the ladies, I present Vladimir Sobotka (back to hockey, right?).

Michael Sam was a college football player and he’s entering the NHL draft, held in late June. He’s also announced he’s gay. Dale Hansen had this redonkulously astute commentary about that (damn, he’s good).

I'll need four of those, pleaseHE’S GOT LEGS: Ever dreamed of cycling up Mont Venteaux like the pros in the Tour de France? This guy did it on a city rental “Boris Bike.” Those things weigh as much as a 6-year-old. Toss on a 50 lb. backpack and climb a long, steep neighborhood hill a few times on a three-speed bike with a rack on the front, if you’re not grasping the accomplishment.

In related news, Albuquerque is host to a future pro cyclist – I’m sure of it. Check out this story on my buddy Jonah Thompson, as multi-talented and athletic a kid as there ever was. Start saving that spare change now. Eventually, you’ll have a chance to put your money on him.

HE’S GOT TEETH (JUST A FEW, THOUGH): I’ve watched my share of videos of stunt people riding their bikes on some crazy stuff, meaning obstacles you’d be hard-pressed to walk on without risking life and limb. Of course, the stunt dudes are impossibly talented, good-natured folks who seemingly nail everything they try.

Then you watch the outtakes (these may look familiar). Okay, so they don’t nail everything. Still, it’s all in good-natured fun. I’ve been tempted to switch careers to be one of those happy-go-lucky guys.

On the Today Show earlier this year, we got the harsh reality. Matt Olsen is a pro BMX stuntman who recently rode his bike over the arches in Fort Worth, TX. He indeed succeeded on his first try (he might be in cuffs, otherwise). And he’s totally good-natured. But he’s missing his front teeth. Turns out, in fact, he has a cringe-worthy list of mishaps:

– 13 concussions

– 3 knee surgeries

– a ruptured spleen

– 7 incidences of teeth knocked out

Given the concussions and knee surgeries, I’m thinking Olsen might not be so good-natured should he make it to senior citizenhood. Surely most of those stunt guys have comparable lists of what happens the many times before success. Guess I’ll keep my desk job.

Ah, spring nightsTIMBITS: Remember back when South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius was my No. 4 of the Top Ten coolest things about 2012? He’d made history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, followed by earning gold in the Paralympics.

As of late, Pistorius spends his time in a court room defending himself as the product of a high-crime, pervasively gun-toting culture, while his personal anxiety, insecurity and jealousy are questioned, as well. He’s charged with shooting and killing his girlfriend, who he says he believed to be an intruder.

Seattle’s Russell Wilson was paid the least of NFL quarterbacks and Peyton Manning, playing for Denver the 2013-14 season, was paid the most.

Q: Guess who won the 2014 Super Bowl?

A: Seattle

A leftie named Bubba (scroll down) won the Masters (golf). It’s the second time in three years for him. For his skill and mental stamina, he will receive a check for $1.62 million. I say he did rookie Jordan Spieth a favor. Nothing good comes of reaching your top goals so early in your athletic career. He’ll be back.

Michael Phelps is competing again for the first time since the 2012 Olympics.

As for those spring allergies, I hear bee pollen helps.

Baby, It’s Cold

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014 will take place in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Brrrrr. It might be too cold to tailgate, but it’d be nice to have the option. Oh well.

BRAIN FREEZE: It seems 2013 will be known as the year head trauma was the hot topic in sports. Major League Baseball is the latest big story. Pending approval by the Player’s Association, effective 2014, catcher/runner home-plate collisions will be banned and punishable, meaning the runner must slide into home plate.

The National Football League recently settled a major lawsuit with former players on the issue of concussions, and NFL players like retired quarterback Bret Favre are going public with their opinions about the potential dangers and consequences of head trauma.

In the National Hockey League, ten former players (none of whom the standard hockey enthusiast would recognize) have filed a class action suit against the NHL, claiming the league concealed information about the risks of brain trauma, and hasn’t banned fighting. In addition to monetary compensation, the players are seeking medical monitoring of their brain trauma – a great idea for both them and science.

What’s interesting is, the NHL has had a group of smart folks like Ken Dryden who indeed try to ensure players’ safety is considered. This is what Dryden himself has to say about the League and concussions, and he would know. Still, one complaint about that initial group, established in 1997, is that it didn’t instigate any action until 2010, with a penalty for head checks.

In fairness to the NHL, not many people understood the consequences of head trauma and multiple concussions in the 1970s. But these days, new cases of possible evidence sprout almost daily. And this article rightfully points out that it’s often hockey players themselves who battle against new requirements addressing their safety, for the sake of comfort and tradition.

Players in the NHL who play the role of “enforcers” typically do so because they aren’t good enough to make a significant difference otherwise. Their other option is a different career, but who wants to sell Lady Kenmores when you can be a high-level professional athlete? The glamor factor is off opposite ends of the chart. Some players say they understand what they’re getting into when they sign the contract. Others say, “If only I’d known….”

While pro football players (now) know what they’re in for, I’m guessing significant changes need to be instated by the NFL to protect not only its players, but the very sport.

I’ve read enough articles and conducted enough research to know that a life of suffering from the emotional and physical pain of head trauma is sometimes deemed a life not worth living. For the NHL, I’m thinking they need to take a couple minor measures (everything feels major initially) to allow the sport to evolve, as it has over the decades, so cash cows like Sydney Crosby have a better chance of developing to their full potential.

Unfortunately, our society has only begun to dabble in the strategy of prevention. As one documentary about U.S. presidents and major disasters  stated, there’s no glory in prevention. There’s no hero.

GREEN: By now you know I live in search of entertaining sports news and events. If I can attend, even better.

In Scotland, I got lucky.

Interested in rugby? Have you heard of the Melrose Sevens? Melrose is in Scotland and famous as the birthplace of seven-a-side rugby. I caught the Melrose team in action and yep, they won.

Next to the Abbey in Arbroath is a nice little space for lawn bowling. In Glasgow, they were holding the International Lawn Bowling Championship, including teams from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Scotland of course.

You’ve heard about that little ACL issue I had? How I caused it mountain biking? Hadn’t mountain biked since? In the Peebles region of Scotland there are groomed mountain biking trails. It looked just like this. The trails are one-way and designated like a ski area with green for easy trails, blue for intermediate and black for advanced. They even had an XS bike to rent me. Get Out!

I can’t believe NASCAR has come up in two consecutive posts, but since we’re talking GREEN, get this:

NASCAR owns the largest recycling, tree planting and renewable energy programs in all of sports.

Yay NASCAR!

TIMBITS: You know that song – the one touted as this past summer’s best dance hit, called Blurred Lines? Turns out when he was 11 years old, singer Robin Thicke had none other than the Wayne Gretzky as his babysitter. Thicke was with Gretzky in 1988, as Gretzky was house and kid-sitting, when the call came through that he’d been traded to the Los Angeles Kings from Edmonton.

There’s tough and there’s crazy. In athlete-speak, Lindsey Vonn says, “It’s a really fine line between glory and disaster.”

Unfortunately, Vonn is a little closer to disaster. She’s had another good spill since surgery, 10 months into recovery, on November 19. The diagnosis was a partial tear to that same ACL. After a few days’ rest and some “aggressive physical therapy,” she returned to competition, placing 5th in her best effort.

Nothing like a little pressure to quickly fine-tune that fine line. The Sochi Olympics are less than 50 days away.

UPDATE: With less than 30 days until Sochi, Vonn has announced she won’t compete.

Lastly, the Cerveceros might be moving from Arizona to Florida for Spring Training. Is it less of a party without the Brewers? (Yes.)

Happy Holidays and New Year! Let’s all get through 2014 head trauma-free, ya?!

Even-Steven

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Cali

We’re nearly halfway through 2013 and I’m feeling audacious, maybe like tossing caution to the wind….

Speaking of risky business, the moment we’ve all known was just on the horizon has arrived: NBA player Jason Collins has announced he’s gay, securing his place in history as the first openly gay male athlete in the majors of an American sport.

As for wind, according to some Baptists, he’s pissed off God real bad. Being a god of guilt, however, rather than striking down Collins, God apparently chose to rip a tornado through Oklahoma. He hopes Collins won’t shrug it off as coincidence, instead taking personal responsibility and feeling unbearably guilty for the destruction.

In the calm after the storm, a low, authoritative voice could be heard. One witness claimed it said, “Reeeedneeeckogniiiiiize!” Scared the living lices outta him.

SWIM, DUMMY! Remember US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte? You know – the guy who admitted to peeing in the pool? Surely you’ve been wondering, What [Else] Would Ryan Lochte Do? God, being a punishing god, has created just the reality show to answer your question.

In a promo interview for his show, Lochte ‘bout killed the interviewers with his, um, charm. On the show, Lochte shares wisdom-infused gems, like, “If you’re a man at night, you gotta be a man in the morning.” Jeah!

GRAND DEPART: The 2013 Tour de France is less than a month away, beginning June 29 and celebrating its 100th year. Partay!

Tejay van GarderenThe 2013 Tour of California cycling race is a wrap, with Tejay van Garderen earning his first career win in a stage race and looking tip-top for the Tour de France.

Over the span of the racing week, California temperatures ranged from the 60s to 100+ during the day. If you’ve never watched cyclists suffer in a race, the stage to catch on the NBC Sports Network was when reflective heat from the road hovered around 120 degrees and the race finished on a steep uphill.

Cyclists literally wobbled (you can skip to the fourth minute) over the finish line, caught there by team staff who lifted them from their bikes and handed them ice to shove down the backs of their jerseys and yes, the fronts of their shorts. One cyclist collapsed before the finish. Another, Jonathan Cantwell, had to withdraw from the race the following day due to burns suffered when he crashed and landed on scalding asphalt, after which he stood in the middle of the road in only his shoes and broken helmet (spandex doesn’t hold up well to a stove) before changing into a new team kit.

WHAT COMES AROUND: This month, it’s Major League Baseball providing the latest doping scandal. A couple mega names, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun along with about 18 other players, are being investigated for “treatment” by a guy who’s not a doctor, with substances not so loosely related to anti-aging benefits.

More quietly, a high-profile Italian cyclist and former winner of the Giro d’Italia, Danilo Di Luca, tested positive for EPO just prior to this year’s Giro. Two quotes from this article sum it up best:

“Danilo has betrayed cycling once again," Giro race director Mauro Vegni said. "But I’m happy it wasn’t a young rider. Danilo belongs to a generation that has navigated through the doping system.”

and this from team director Luca Scinto:

“Di Luca is an idiot. I never wanted him," Scinto said. "Di Luca is sick. He needs to be helped.”

If you missed it, the Kentucky Derby was May 4. Multi-talented TV analyst and Seabiscuit star, Gary Stevens, came out of retirement as a jockey to ride Oxbow. While the 50-year-old didn’t fare so well in the Derby, he owned the Preakness start to finish, and placed 2nd in the Belmont Stakes.

The female jockey in the bunch was Rosie Napravnik on Mylute, coming in 5th in the Derby, 3rd in the Preakness, and 6th in the Belmont Stakes riding Unlimited Budget. Napravnik is the first female jockey to ride in all three Triple Crown races in the same season.

MZ. UNIVERSE: While we’re talking women, Christmas Abbott is training to be the first female NASCAR pit crew member (there are women in other leagues). It all began with an invitation from a Michael Waltrip Racing pit crew coach, former New Mexico Scorpions hockey defenseman and 2003-04 captain, Shaun Peet. A man of his word, Peet once told me his philosophy of life:

Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing, like Helen Keller said.

EYE CANDY: Alas, we’ve seen the last of Tim Tebow in the NFL. I guess that means I won’t be using TeBow – wait, TeVo – to catch his games. Geez, I can’t keep it straight (neither could Tim McGraw on Ellen). Is it TeVo? TeBow? T-bone? Been T-boned? (Ah – that’s how you’d refer to Tebow’s date, say, if he wasn’t saving himself and all.)

Wait, wait. What’s this?! We haven’t seen the last of him in the NFL? OMG – The Patriots have hired him! The Patriots hired Tebow! Along with Tom Brady, ladies (what the heck, a few guys, too) in New England are going to need seat belts on their stadium seats to keep from sliding right off, ogling the best-looking QB squad in Mark Lemelinthe NFL.

TIMBITS: Albuquerque native Mark Lemelin has wrapped up his first season as an official in the National Hockey League. To assist you in grasping the significance of his accomplishment, I’ll have you recollect the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team (which did experience eventual success). It’s the stuff movies are made of. A toast to Lemelin! (This guy says it’s okay.)

Well friends, in the name of self-preservation, I’m keeping it short. It’s been risky business. Let’s hope – no, let’s pray I survive.

Happy Kind & Peaceful 2013!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Risky BusinessHere are the entirely subjective and yet supremely entertaining Top 10 SportsSlant Stories of 2012, and additional bits of information to stimulate thought and provoke conversation:

ONE: Now I’m ready to talk Lance. Unless you’ve been living in North Korea, by now you know the International Cycling Union (UCI) has stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles, also smacking him with a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling (obviously, merely symbolic). He’s barred from competing in triathlons, as well.

I said it after the two Tour de France winners (Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador) following Armstrong were caught doping, “If it seems super human, it is super human.”

Unless you’ve been reeling in the anger of being duped, it’s nothing but entertaining to look back at the ways Lance lied. Check out this Nike ad, where Armstrong states it’s his body, he can do whatever he wants with it. (The article, by Jason Cohen, is worth a read as well.)

Or perhaps you can find humor in this feline’s advice for Lance.

And if you want an opinion on one of what must be a massive list of entities that benefited from Lance’s profitability, and therefore turned a blind eye, see this piece on Nike.

Some folks respect Armstrong with the statement, “Of everyone who was doping, Lance was the strongest.” Indeed, he utilized each and every training angle meticulously to give him the competitive edge – doping included.

Let it Rain, LanceHe didn’t do it alone. Someone had to say, “Lance, everyone’s doping, but we have the financial plan to enlist the best minds of the business and a web of insiders and lawyers and doctors and publicity geniuses to pull off something impossibly grand.”

Was it Armstrong’s former team director, Johan Bruyneel, who had a list of connections and perhaps played a role in developing an elaborate system of test avoidance? Who was this partner in crime, who told Lance, “You survived cancer. People will give you the benefit of a doubt as a freak of nature, a hard worker, an underdog. Let’s do this.”

A self-declared “mastermind,” Bruyneel shared all sorts of wisdom in his book, You Might as Well Win: On the Road to Success with the Mastermind Behind Eight Tour de France Victories. Here’s the quote that preceeds chapter 16, on page 178:

I was still willing to risk losing to win. Something inside me would never settle for being in the middle.

Perhaps the book should be re-titled, You Might As Well Cheat. (He ought to at least add a chapter.) Seven of those victories were Lance’s; the eighth belonging to Contador.

I suppose we could just ask the man. The bottom of Bruyneel’s home page states, “Johan would love to help answer any questions you may have. Send him an email and he’ll get back to you shortly.” Let me know what he says.

And tune in to Oprah’s Next Chapter January 17 on OWN, when her interview with Armstrong airs. We already know he’s confessed, and many people are debating the pluses and minuses of his actions.

We do know this: Lance hasn’t been naïve or careless about anything he’s done since adolescence, when he once ate a donut and soda as his pre-race meal. Not a speck of doubt – the consequences of a confession have been precisely calculated.

Mainstream media is having fun with Armstrong. On the TV show The New Normal, bedroom curtains with bicycles for a little boy’s bedroom were declined because, you know – the Lance thing.

CharityOn Happy Endings, a character’s quote about a new dress label was, it could be “The hottest fashion item since Bicycle Joe Steroid little yellow bracelets.”

TWO: For those of you ready to knock out your own teeth over the 2012 National Hockey League lockout, there’s hope – sort of. The dispute is settled and a short season is on the horizon.

With this being the second lockout in a decade and global warming wreaking havoc on outdoor hockey ponds, the NHL might be one lockout short of oblivion. The popularity of the sport rests on mighty thin ice in the US as it is. Insulted fans have pledged to boycott the first several games of this short season. And if folks can’t play for free on outdoor ponds after school and work, they’re a lot less likely to develop athletic passions.

Nevertheless, it’s been entertaining to see how players and coaches filled their downtime. Penguins Captain Sydney Crosby showed up at a rec league ball hockey game and played goaltender. Former Rangers goaltender Mike Richter kept things going with a group of kids who played outdoor hockey in Manhattan in December with his Citi Mike Richter Hockey ProCamp. Here’s what a few coaches did.

Sergio RomoTHREE: The Giants, with closer Sergio Romo, swept the Tigers in the World Series in baseball. I like the Giants, but feel for the Tigers. It’s been so much longer since they’ve won – since 1984 – with only a season between titles for the Giants.

FOUR: South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius made history as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He followed that superhuman accomplishment by earning gold in the Paralympics.

TV coverage of this past Summer Paralympics was respectable, giving viewers the chance to be grateful for what they take for granted, while pondering what it might be like to compete in swimming without sight, as did Lt. Brad Snyder, or like Summer Mortimer, who suffered a horrifying trampoline accident and broke all the bones in her feet.

FIVE: NFL replacement ref fiasco. The replacement refs hired to officiate the highest level of football in the country included high school- and college-level officials. Their term went on longer than folks expected, but there’s no rush to solve a labor dispute while fans continue to buy game tickets. After all, this is not the NHL.

The highest level of hockey I’ve officiated is Bantam, essentially the level below high school, and I assure you if someone asked me to work a college game, it’d be dangerous for all involved. Lower-level refs simply aren’t accustomed to the speed of such high-level games.

Replacement ref Lance Easley, a bank vice-president who made the infamous call between Seattle and Green Bay (touchdown Seattle), refs junior college games on weekends. On the Today Show he said he still stands by his call. He says he’s been a ref for “many, many years” and did receive some training by the NFL, and that the replacement refs did the best they could given the circumstances.

SIX: One of the most talented coaches of all time (since the Big Bang), Pat Summitt, retired after 38 years with the University of Tennessee women’s basketball program, diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

SEVEN: Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour de France (soon after, winning gold in the Olympic Time Trial), while sprinter Peter Sagan deserves honorable mention as arguably the most entertaining cyclist in the Tour.

EIGHT: Michael Phelps made headlines – not just for winning his 22 total Olympic medals (we expected that), but for his golf putt. Whoda thunk Phelps, of all people, would hold the record for longest putt ever? Seriously, how many records should one person Bogart?

NINE: Augusta National has invited female members to its Golf Club for the first time. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore will be the first to represent.

TEN: If you’ve been wondering, “Now, why don’t she write?” a key SportsSlant staff member (yours truly) blew out her knee mountain biking in August, resulting in complete ACL reconstructive surgery using her patellar tendon, plus some meniscus and arthritic bone cleanup.

Arthritic bone isn’t just for old people, folks. If you play hard, you tear the body down. Play nice.

BONUS (‘Cause that’s how I roll): Bubba Watson won the Master’s the same week I saw his interview on Feherty, proving the potent phenomenon of “Feherty karma” (like Jungle karma) mixed with SportsSlant karma.

DOUBLE BONUS (Now it just feels cheap): On to someone with mad, mad skillz. This man obviously has the most core strength of 2012, in addition to impossible balance. Notice how he feather-kisses the landings – so light on his tires. I’m guessing that’s what makes them stick.

Here are the equally entertaining outtakes.

TIMBITS: Happy Birthday to us! As of the past October, SportsSlant is five years old. Please send gifts: Hendricks Gin, French macaroons, and Calvin Klein underwear (sm).

Junebug

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Liquigas chillin' chillin'

Bills are paid, wine fridge stocked, Netflix account suspended and all systems go for the Tour de France, broadcast on NBC Sports Network beginning June 30 and followed less than a week later by the Olympics, starting July 27.

Call me a couch potato. It’ll be the only time it’s true.

JUICY: While most of my business is in order, I can’t say the same for team RadioShack and its manager, Johan Bruyneel. They’ve been publicly airing dirty laundry and wow – what fodder for gossip. Rather than summarize the list, I’ll defer to this article, which does an excellent job of it.

In the meantime, Andy Schleck was literally blown over by a gust of wind during a time trial (mix in a burrito, dude) in the Critérium du Dauphiné, injuring his back and solving an Andy vs. Chris Horner vs. Bruyneel conundrum. Andy’s out of the Tour and Chris is in. Team harmony restored.

Not.

But with the doping ruling against Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck is at least the official winner of the 2010 Tour de France. So… Andy’s always wanted to win the Tour and now he’s on record as having done so. Think he’s satisfied? (Of course not, silly.) And he can’t compete this year.

THE JUICE: Andy’s not the only one to miss the Tour. Bruyneel won’t be there, either. You see, the US Anti-Doping Agency blah blah Lance Armstrong blah latest charges blah blah EPO, “but I never failed a test” blah blah blah.

Don’t you sometimes wish it would just go away?

Bruyneel is implicated in the charges as well.

The thing for Armstrong is he’s still a professional athlete, competing as a triathlete. For now he’s banned from Ironman competition and if a conviction comes from these latest charges, would likely be banned from Olympic sports.

The super funny – and I do mean funny ha-ha – thing about what would happen if Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles is they’d would trickle down to the likes of Jan Ulrich and Evan Basso – both of whom were convicted of doping.

Ted King with Barry BondsSpeaking of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Barry Bonds was spotted at the Tour of California. Apparently, he’s a big cycling fan, chatted up by American Ted King at the start in Ontario.

 

Sports radio and TV personality Jim Rome says only three or four people in L.A. care about hockey. You might say the same about pro cycling. The Tour of California concluded in L.A. and the crowd was reported at 10,000 (including curious Kings fans on their way to the NHL Stanley Cup playoff game against Phoenix). Call me a cynic, but I’m dubious about the percentage who understood the significance of the race, which showcased many of the world’s best teams and international cyclists.LA Kings fans intrigued by cycling

While mention of the race put smiles on the faces of local folks, they typically followed up with, “Are you riding in the Tour?” That’s the equivalent of asking me if I play for the L.A. Kings.

Picture it. I’m 4’10” if I’ve taken my vitamins.

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: Robert Gesink won overall. Dave Zabriskie came in second for the fourth year in a row, and Tom Danielson placed third.

The Tour of California may have taken its toll on a lot of riders. In fact, one of the poor boys from the Bontrager development team was spotted in a restaurant bathroom with a bloody nose shortly thereafter. Perhaps it was the pollution. A local said Ontario and L.A. had the worst pollution it’d had all year. Even I felt it in the lungs. Imagine sucking in that air, breathing as hard as you possibly can, while hammering up mountain after mountain.

Yuck.

Retired sprinter Robbie McEwenOn the start line in Ontario, 39-year-old Robbie McEwen was another cyclist not feeling spry, though in the mood for a friendly chat. Turns out the Tour of Cali was his final race before retirement. At the race finish, he was presented with the Most Courageous Rider jersey.

Indeed, it takes an overstuffed “suitcase of courage” for a sprinter to slog over several wicked-high climbs knowing retirement is just a day away.

McEwen was in seasoned company in the ToC, alongside 40-year-old Chris Horner, 40-year-old Jens Voigt, who’s completed 14 Tours de France and George Hincapie, 39 years old this month and 16 Tours de France completed.

His 17th this year will set a record, after which, he’s announced he’ll retire as well.

NHL KINGS CROWNED: The Tour of California concluded in front of the Staples Center, where the L.A. Kings played immediately thereafter. Several pro cyclists popped across the street to indulge in a VIP box and enjoy the game.

Make that six people in L.A. who care about hockey if there’s a pro cycling race in town.

By the way, the L.A. Kings did go on to win the Stanley Cup championship. You might be thinking, “Wow, another one of the newer NHL teams got it.” In fact, the L.A. Kings have been in L.A. 45 years.

This is their first championship.

Congratu-frickin’-lations!

A Kings player was asked if the championship will change how the city feels about hockey. His answer was, essentially, that even when Wayne Gretsky played in L.A., it didn’t. (That would be a “no.”)

ALL BUSINESS: If you’re a cycling fan, you know the name Bradley Wiggins. If not, write him down as a likely winner of the 2012 Tour de France. He’ll do nothing less than challenge Cadel Evans, who’ll be defending his title.

Peter SaganPeter Sagan, the 22-year-old phenom, won five stages of the ToC by beating out sprinter Tom Boonen, among others. This sets up quite the thrilling battle for sprint stages in the Tour de France against Mark Cavendish.

If you want anything left in the glass, be sure to put down your champagne for these stages. Sagan tends to add to the already-nail-biting madness that is the sprint finish with things like nearly wiping out the barriers, accidentally unclipping and having to touch down, flatting in the final 3k, etc. Through it all, he still wins.

TIMBITS: Epic congrats to Ryder Hesjedal of Canada for stumping the big dogs and winning the Giro d’Italia, Italy’s answer to the Tour de France. That makes Hesjedal the very first Canadian to do so (duh). In fact, he’s the only Canadian to have won a Grand Tour (Vuelta, Giro and Tour de France). At this publishing, he’s 8th in the UCI WorldTour rankings. All this good news means his team will work for him as he competes for the overall General Classification in the Tour de France.

Let the epic summer begin (I’m exhausted just thinking about it)!

It’s Spring. Surprise Yourself.

Friday, April 27th, 2012

May flowers

It’s killing me – I hardly know myself. Who is this person I’ve become?

This year, I watched the NFL playoffs for the first time in my life. Not just the Super Bowl – the playoffs. I don’t even like football. And golf? The best thing about golf is how quiet its fans are, so I can have it on TV while I nap and it won’t interrupt my sleep.

But I’ve become a huge fan of the show Feherty (hosted by former pro golfer David Feherty) on the Golf Channel Monday nights. It’s a wacky Irish guy interviewing the top personalities of golf or, occasionally, some other sport.

I’m addicted. I’m not talking about standard interviews, when the athlete opens a can of blather and out comes the same goop that comes from every athlete’s mouth just before or after a game:

We got to play ’em one day at a time. I’m just happy to be here. Hope I can help the ball club. I just wanna give it my best shot and the good Lord willing, things will work out.

(Bull Durham)

I’m talking about a candid interview, when an athlete is willing to share the good times and bad, the eccentricities, a little character.

I found myself having this thought: “It’ll be intriguing to watch the Masters and know a little about the personalities and lives of the athletes.”

Tiger’s drama notwithstanding, golf? Intriguing?

Sure as shootin’, Bubba Watson won the Master’s the same week I saw his interview on Feherty. I’m calling it “Feherty karma” (like Jungle karma).

And then there’s this – what Bubba (and a few golf buddies) does when he isn’t busy at the Masters:

Bubba in overalls.

Anyway, if you find the real me wandering the streets in plaid shorts and a visor, please stop and give me a good, hard shake. Remove the visor and point me in the right direction.

Ichiro at batSUNSHINE, MARTINIS & FLIP-FLOPS?: Speaking of the more mellow class of sport, I made my annual pilgrimage to Arizona for the last weekend of Spring Training baseball. more info

Friday night, Giambi hit a homer as I savored garlic knots and a PAMA martini at Salt River Fields. Saturday, Pujols hit a homer in a 10-inning game that ended in a tie. Saturday night Kinsler hit a homer at Goodyear Complex as I munched beer-battered fish-n-chips and talked baseball with a couple Canadian snowbirds, and Sunday I watched Ichiro with my belly full of Lo-Lo’s chicken-n-waffles.

Next year I bring running shoes.

ROCKS & FLATS: I mentioned in my last post that Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen might be making a comeback.

He is.

He amassed nine wins in the early months of the cycling season, perhaps most notably Paris-Roubaix – the famed, hellish ride over 23 miles of soul-jolting, testicle-tattering cobblestones. He made his move early and dominated to the very end for the fourth Paris-Roubaix victory of his career. For his effort, he took home a giant rock.

On the track, centenarian Robert Marchand set the record for best performance in an hour in the (newly-established) 100-and-over age category, completing 15.1 miles on a velodrome.

He advises us to “keep moving.”

CALORIE CHECK: In case you think I’m exaggerating about the “soul-jolting” bit of Paris-Roubaix, it was mentioned during the broadcast that data revealed Boonen burned 1,000 kcal per hour. It was a nearly 6-hour race.

Bet he was hungry enough to chew his leather saddle at the finish.

sSl BOOK CLUB: It saddens me to report one of the best coaches of all time, Pat Summitt, has retired after 38 years with the University of Tennessee women’s basketball program as head coach. It saddens me more that she’s been diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Summitt has a book deal for her memoir. I can’t wait. Surely it’ll be chock-full of incredible stories and authentic inspiration for realizing potential.

TIMBITS: The first round of the NHL playoffs is decided. Still, you have between now and June to catch a game. Canada is out, but SportsSlant is still tracking the NY Rangers. It took a Game 7 win, but they’ve survived.

The Summer Olympic countdown is so on. Less than 100 days. That means the Tour de France countdown is on as well. I’m gonna need to pre-pay all my July bills.

For those of you out of touch with Sports World gossip, one of the NBA’s more physical players (he was recently suspended for concussing another player with an elbow to the head), Ron Artest, has changed his name to Metta World Peace. Can’t believe he chose that over Metta Whirled Peas.

Peas Out.

Love (Kettle Corn) Is in the Air

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Spring Training smack?

Cold-hearted orb that rules the night

Removes the colors from our sight

Red is grey and yellow, white

But we decide which is right

And which is an illusion

Since marijuana is, for the most part, illegal, a beer to anyone who can guess which band the above lyrics are from.

Moody Blues! (Yeay! Beer for me!)

In addition to the Rolling Stones, it’s the band I remember my mom listening to most when I was a child. Explains a lot, ya?

Moody Blues is touring this March and April. I’m sure the show will be an experience entirely unlike any other modern-day concert other than, perhaps, Roger Waters and The Wall Live.

SPEAKING OF ILLEGAL: At long, long last, the ruling has come down for cyclist Alberto Contador: guilty of doping (clenbuterol); two-year ban from racing, including the upcoming Olympics; stripped of his 2010 Tour de France title; his Saxo-Bank team possibly demoted, not meeting the qualifications of a UCI World Tour team if you subtract points earned by Contador.

Floyd can relate...Ouch.

ROLL BOUNCE: It’s early to plug this, but in case you need the heads-up to perfect your most groovy moves, Albuquerque will host the USA Roller Sports National Championships in 2013 and 2015, scheduled for three weeks spanning July-August. It’s predicted 8,500 competitive athletes, families and coaches will swarm the Duke City. The event will include inline speed skating and roller figure skating competitions. Divisions range from youth through masters/senior levels.

In the meantime, psych yourself up with this chillin’ soundtrack, including priceless gems “Boogie Oogie Oogie” and “Le Freak.”

MORE CYCLING: If you’re not into professional cycling, you’re gonna think I’m crazy to say the season is in full-swing. I’ll take my chances.

The cycling season is in full-swing!

To get numberswiki.com

you in the mood, here’s a tasty nugget of one of cycling’s most colorful characters, Bob Roll, born in Oakland, CA by way of San Ildefonso pueblo?!

Bobke sayz: “You get what you deserve in life.”

If you missed Australia’s Tour Down Under, it was won by Australian Simon Gerrans of team GreenEdge (a new Australian, World Tour-caliber team).

Sprinter Tom Boonen may be back on track after a couple rough years that dealt him rare wins and common crashes. He’s wrapped up the Tour of Qatar as victor overall a fourth time – his first since 2009.

HELL HATH FROZEN: It’s been brought to my attention the Rangers are jockeying with Vancouver for first place in the National Hockey League. No offense, but for the past decade or so I’ve taken for granted the Rangers were a mediocre team without the mettle to make it past the earlier rounds of the playoffs; that since Mike Richter and Mark Messier retired, nothing super great has happened.

The playoffs are about a month away. It’ll be fun to track the Rangers, perhaps to the final round….

If so, and Toronto is the next team to have an especially great season, I’ll have to concede that indeed, hell is a little like Yellowknife.

TIMBITS: I’ve saved a nibble of the best for last. Here’s a rockin’ little gem that puts a smile on the face and inspires two thoughts:

Thank you technology gods for improvements that assist those of us less willing to risk damaged bits.

And…

Work with what you have – you may be pleasantly surprised and amused.

Spring Training baseball is in progress! I can smell it – that irresistible combination of salt and sugar.

Fallshadowing

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Can’t help but kick off a new season with this rockin’ clip (literally), courtesy of Signore King. It features “the Lynn Hill of the dog world.” Biscuit, you rocked my world.

Bitches be crazy!

RED, WHITE & A MILE HIGH: So, what did you do this summer? Were you in Colorado catching the US Pro Cycling Challenge the last week of August? Good for you!

While you stood at the side of the road, amidst breathtaking Colorado scenery, Europeans jealously watched you cheer on Tour de France podium finishers – all three of them – racing at high elevation US-style, baby. Lots of kinesio tape being passed around.

Evans sizing up SchleckYou do know Cadel Evans won the Tour de France, right?

Who?

Evans has been the one of the greatest threats you never heard of – other than reading his name in previous blog postings – to top the podium in a couple years. He’s finished the Tour de France 2nd, twice. This time, at 34 years old, he’s the oldest guy to win post WWII.

But he used to refuse to speak with the media. He’s a little "nervous" more often than not. Still, it was a well-deserved victory and the first time an Australian has won that race.

Alberto Contador, on the other hand, only shot off bottle rockets. He tried a couple moves on a stage or two, but was clearly not in a winner’s frame of mind. He did manage 5th overall.

The top American competitor, finishing 9th, was Tommy Danielson, riding his first Tour de France at age 33. This is a guy who, about six years ago, was touted as the next Lance after winning the Tour of Georgia – a label no one in his right mind would want so early in his career. Some call it the "Curse of Lance."

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Bobke quote –

A rider’s power is equal to his ability to endure suffering.

Here I’ve been thinking Bob Roll was referring to endless hours in the saddle. I’ve concluded it refers to the whole enchilada, though. Take, for example, the rampant phenomenon of male fans stripping to their tighty-whities, Borat straps, or bday suits and leaping out of the masses just in time for the TV cameras – aka the world and my mama – and the victimized riders, of course.

Nice tan lines!Plenty of hooch passed around on those hilltops.

Hooch is crazy!

If you need someone genuinely entertaining to follow on Twitter, check out @MarkCavendish. Love him or not, the man is funny. He just happens to be a pro cyclist.

GET THIS: Mike Tyson isn’t just vegetarian. He’s vegan. The man who stopped at no meat, including the extremities of human opponents, has gone peaceful. I’ve caught a couple interviews with him and I’ve decided, against my better judgment, to give the man the benefit of the doubt. Check out his pro-vegan billboard. That’s one of his cherished, pet pigeons getting some Ty-love.

TIMBITS: Grazie mille to Laura Matzen for the Tour de France photos used above!!!

The Central Hockey League is kicking off its 20th season. Even bigger news for Albuquerque readers is former CHL referee, Mark Lemelin, has made it to the big show. If you’ve played a summer beer league game at Outpost, chances are good you’ve whined to the likes of a National Hockey League official. Kudos to Lemelin!

By the way, beer leagues are crazy!