CHbLog – Inside Edge

Sit Back, Unwind (while it’s still summer!)

BREAKING NEWS: Becky Hammon has been hired by the Spurs as the NBA’s first full-time, paid (assistant) female coach. Lisa Boyer was almost first, “hired” back in 2001, but only worked part time and wasn’t paid. Like that really counts (no disrespect to Boyer).

CAN’T STAND THE RAIN: The toll this year’s Tour de France took on its riders was as much psychological as physical. The number of cyclists who finished was only a percent or two lower than the average the past five years (2012 was the significantly lower number, with 153 of 198 riders finishing to 2014’s 164). It was the weather that did it, meaning rain, of course. And the cobble stage, because riding cobblestones in. the. rain. is just nutty.

Sprinter Mark Cavendish crashed the very first day. It was just like last year, except this time, the race ended in his country, in his mom’s home town, with the fam all waiting at the finish line.

Even the Royals were there: Kate standing, yellow jersey in hand, ready to clothe the “Boy Racer.” She seemed a touch stumped to see the German specimen that is Marcel Kittel standing before her with arms outstretched. If you were watching closely, you noticed her turn to Prince William, mouthing, “Did this man eat Cavendish? Where’s Cavendish?”

This was a mental sports setup if ever there was one. Greater men would buckle under that sort of pressure, whether consciously or subconsciously. The question his sports psychologist asked is, “What made you choose to lean heavily into that other sprinter?” Cavendish, the most prolific Tour sprinter of all time, certainly remembered from last year that the younger Kittel could outgun him – did on opening day and otherwise in 2013 – and will in the future.

Cavendish was only the first of several very top contenders of the Tour to crash out. Next to exit was defending overall champion, Chris Froome, who was followed by his primary rival, Alberto Contador, crashing out the tenth day.

American Andrew Talansky, who finished Top 10 last year, crashed during several stages. In his final stage, he fought the pain at the back of the pack, at one point dismounting his bike to stop the suffering, tearfully listening to his coach’s breakdown of the situation. Talansky finished that stage, but didn’t start the next one.

So Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished first overall with a massive 7:37-minute lead over second place – a psychological tactic if ever there was one, to assert his win wasn’t dependent on the absence of Froome and Contador. Sprinter Peter Sagan did something similar, all but guaranteeing himself the green jersey long before the end of the race.

There was a women’s race! It took place during the final stage, just before the men’s, and was won by Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos. It’s not the first women’s Tour de France-ish, but it’s (another) start.

Moving on. World Cup – is it football, soccer or futbol? This explains it.

UNDER PRESSURE: Brazil knows exactly how Cavendish feels. In the semi-finals, overall winning team Germany scored five goals in 29 minutes against Brazil in Brazil: fastest ever five goals; first time since 1974 five goals were scored in the first half of a game; first time Brazil lost a competitive match in its country since 1975, and holy hell, did I mention the final score was 7-1?!

GOOAAALL!!! This was the rare soccer game during which viewers could play a drinking game for goals and actually need to call a cab ride home.

Brazil was the favorite right up until it faced Germany without its No. 1 star, who was kneed in the back the previous game and couldn’t feel his legs afterwards – at first he thought he might be paralyzed. Brazil’s captain was out as well, serving a suspension. No chance.

Algeria won it’s first Fifa World Cup game since 1982, against Korea. When an Algerian player cramped and fell over during the only injury not faked, a Korean player stopped playing mid-game to stretch his opponent’s leg for him on the field, while the game progressed. A+ for sportsmanship!

F- for sportsmanship to Luis Suarez of Uruguay, who needs to be banned to Kindergarten, where he should learn to keep his teeth off other people. Read this.

And he’s not the only one. Albuquerque Isotopes catcher Miguel Olivo brought ear biting back into play during an intrateam altercation. Yes – he bit a teammate. Again, people, Who gets past Kindergarten without kicking that nasty little biting habit?

In other baseball news, because the next major sports event not cycling is the World Series, Josh Reddick of the Oakland A’s was using Careless Whisper (yup – by Wham!) as his walk-up song. That, my friends, is just one reason the A’s might win the World Series. Sonny Gray is another. You heard it here (unless they don’t).

TIMBITS: The underlying implication of Kevin Durant’s speech to his mom as he accepted the NBA’s MVP award in May, is that the beauty of living into your 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond is that even if you have a really rough decade or three, they could be followed by times so unimaginably better.

Enjoy the rest of summer, my friends! If you haven’t already, sip a Moscow Mule served over ice. Note: If you’re crazy about ginger, I say skip the copper mug. It seems to dilute the flavor.

2 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka

3.4 oz (half bottle) Fever Tree Ginger Beer (half bottle)

Juice of 1/2 lime (cut the juiced lime in half and toss in a quarter)

Bless You! (Happy Spring)

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

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.


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?!

Summer Sleeper

Winning!Rafa Nadal is celebrating fall with a phat $3.6 million check since winning his second US Open tennis championship, beating Novak Djokovic. As the announcers said, last year he watched the championship from his couch, nursing bum knees and wondering if he could ever return to the high level he’d accomplished.

Wonder no more, my friend.

And American cyclist Chris Horner won the Vuelta a Espana this month, making him the oldest dude ever – by five years – to win a Grand Tour (he’s 41).

He must have been keeping tabs on Diana Nyad, who said, “Never ever give up” and “You’re never too old to chase your dream.” She also walks the walk. The 64-year old swam from Cuba to Miami in 54 hours, vomiting much of the way due to the high volume of salt water ingested as a complication with the mask she wore to avoid jellyfish stings to her face.

It took five tries to succeed. Nyad’s first attempt was 35 years ago.

What now?SCAB: Alex Rodriguez will compete in this year’s World Series if the Yankees qualify (news flash – they didn’t), despite his suspension. Some say he was the one to save his sport after its last major doping scandal. These days, he’s appealing a suspension for the 2014 season (211 games). A-Rod is currently baseball’s highest-paid player – his salary exceeds the team payroll of the Houston Astros – and yes, he’s one of the latest to be caught in a doping scandal.

This whole, “First he saved the sport and later drove a dagger into its soul via doping scandal” thing sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I’m not the only one to think, “[Sigh.] Another Lance Armstrong” (though I did think it before hearing anyone else say it. Yay me).

ALLEZ! 138 miles of cycling, 67 hours of television, 6.5 bottles (35 glasses) of wine, 6 glasses of champagne, and 19 nights of sleep deprivation was the 100th edition of the Tour de France – and that’s just me. Thank god it’s almost 300 days until the 2014 Tour begins in Yorkshire, UK.

Wait – you’re not excited, though? What the heck?! How can you not be excited to see images like this? Okay, how ‘bout this one? They say Marcel Kittell looks like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, or maybe Vanilla Ice. He’s the latest sprinter to give Mark Cavendish a hair-raising challenge. Must’ve watched Cavendish’s sprinting tips.

Seriously, the Tour de France was one of the top highlights of my summer and I’ll tell you why. First, I’ll tell you why it wasn’t one of yours (with the exception of the five of you – you know who you are).

Visualize the finish lineI teach indoor cycling classes, aka spin. I get excited each July, when I incorporate Tour de France references into my classes. I ask who’s been watching. I tell clients to imagine the scenery of France. I add the song Tour de France by Kraftwerk to my playlist. I tell clients I’m their soigneur when I refill their water bottles.

[Insert crickets chirping.]

This year, no one said they were watching. Not ONE SINGLE PERSON. One client caustically snorted, “Is Lance winning?” Another told me it was all Lance Armstrong’s fault.

[Insert record scratch.]

Lance’s fault? That bastard! How ironic that we sang his praises as the person who “did so much” for American cycling and now that he’s admitted to doping, he’s all but gassed American’s enthusiasm for cycling – not that there aren’t any American pros, but former fans slinked off to the bleachers of their kids’ summer intermural games.

Lance giveth and Lance taketh away.

Oh no he didn’t! Lance made the Tour worth watching! Trust me. Sure, he was high-end entertainment value. He made America feel the dominating badass we so crave to believe it is. Now that he’s admitted he cheated, we feel duped and don’t want to be seen near any reminder of such.

No no NO! Now that Lance is gone, the Tour isn’t so predictable! And cyclists like American Andrew Talansky give us hope for another, cleaner star of the near future. (I heard that snicker. Don’t be such a pessimist.)

MULTIFARIOUS: For funsies, put yourself in Chris Froome’s cleats for a moment. He won the Tour de France this year (he’s the guy who came in second last year, helping teammate Bradley Wiggins win). You gotta feel for him. What a thrill to win the Tour de France. What luck to win the 100th edition. What gawdawful timing to win the first Tour since Lance admitted to doping, meaning Froome had to answer endless questions about himself and whether he, too, was doping. Buzz. Kill.

In his defense, Froome said, “This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time.” And that’s exactly what it’s come to. A test of time.

AUSTRALOPITHECUS: Seriously, we’ve been faced with cheaters since the beginning of human existence (I was there). In the Tour de France, it struck early. The very first edition of the Tour was won by a cyclist who was banned from competing the following year – for cheating. You can’t blame the man. He apparently won by three hours despite being a chain smoker.

The sign was there, people.

Still, there are very good reasons I’ve spent a hearty chunk of my summer watching the Tour de France the past 14 odd years:

– Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll are a multi-talented commentating team capable of making several hours of cycling coverage a day, for three straight weeks, addicting.

– The scenery in HD could be a National Geographic special with French countryside, the Alps covered in snow, this year’s Corsica coastline, and wildlife caught from a bird’s-eye view (race helicopters).

– The unique brand of fan and their passion makes for nail-biting entertainment. More or less clothed and inebriated, thousands of international fans spend several intimate nights camping on the side of a mountain. They wait days for one of the most interactive and exciting minutes in sports. It becomes about trust, when the pros whiz by close enough to smell, in groups of “winning,” “chasing,” “hanging tough” and “bargaining with a higher power to survive,” that the fans won’t interfere with history.

– It’s sprint finishes, like NASCAR with half the wheels and twice the odds of a massive human pileup.

– And characters like Peter Sagan, who loads his bike by riding it onto the roof of his car; Jens Voigt and his six kids; and Tony Martin, the toughest man in cycling – if not sports. He apparently has no pain receptors.

[The Tour de France and NBC Sports Network can mail my publicity plug check now.]

TIMBITS: Lindsey Vonn was on skis this past Labor Day – the first time in seven months, since a skiing accident left her with a fractured tibia and ACL/MCL tears. Sounds like she’s in a good frame of mind, too.

Voigt says he’s ridden his last Tour de France. The sport is soon losing one of the most entertaining, authentic characters of the modern era (he plans to participate in a few more non-Grand Tour races). Respect.

Surprise! The Patriots released Tebow. But he turned down an offer to play football in Russia, which is weird, because American Football Championship of Russia rules allow players to reference Bible verses on their eye black.



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.

Show Me the Love

Osprey nest

First, I’d like to thank everyone who sent SportsSlant 5th Anniversary gifts. The Ellen underwear are a hit. They go great with Hendricks and macaroons.

Oscar Pistorius, who apparently got a little cocky after making the Top 10 SportsSlant Stories of 2012 over perhaps the fastest man ever, Usain Bolt, was fatally reckless with a gun and now awaits trial for the murder of his girlfriend of several months. Pistorius claims he believed she was an intruder.

This gives new meaning to post-Olympic depression. Pistorius was quoted as saying his success in London was beyond his wildest expectations and that following the Games, he was having the time of his life. Times have changed.

How curious that some of the very best days of people’s lives can be so immediately followed by some of the very worst. Another example that comes to mind is lottery winners.

SOCHI NEWS: Skier Lindsey Vonn crashed in the super-G event February 5 in Austria, worth an ACL and MCL tear plus a tibial fracture. Vonn is the most decorated American skier of all. She says she plans to compete in the 2014 Olympics, just a year away (perhaps even the World Cup in November).

Vonn, in fact, has yet to compete in a Winter Games without some sort of injury, including a badly cut thumb. Wait – she hasn’t competed healthy in any championship event since 2007. It’s her M.O.

I ask this: Is Vonn the most successful because she puts more on the line than anyone else, or could she be that much better (most decorated skier in the world) if she could reign it in just enough to be healthy for championship competitions?

“I’m not afraid of crashing. It’s just part of the sport,” says Vonn in the New York Times from the link above. “You don’t have success without sacrifice. You have to give something in order to receive something.” In Vonn’s case, that means body parts.

Fried chicken-n-waffles, yo!LOLO’S CHICKEN-N-WAFFLES: Lolo Jones, the sensitive, virginal hurdler who competed in the 2012 Summer Games, has joined the US bobsled team to compete in Sochi. So far, so good.

ARMSTRONG WRAP-UP: This quote might answer any questions you still have about Lance Armstrong’s predicament:

An athlete has such a narrow view of life he does not know reality – Bruce Jenner

In Armstrong’s confession interview with Oprah, he mentioned the day or two he lost all his sponsors as they phoned, one by one, to break ties. Said Armstrong, “That was a $75,000,000 day. Gone – and probably never coming back.”

That’s a hot $75 million, folks. But do we give a number two? Lucky for Lance, he still gets book royalties. (Bwahahahaha. LMAO! Anyone who’s published a book knows you don’t get anything remotely close to that, unless you wrote the Harry Potter series.)

By the way, Michael Jordan made $60 million from shoe sales in 2012.

OUCH: Remember that sort of geeky guy, Chris Carmichael, who sold books about cycling nutrition and was used as a nutrition commentator during Tour de France broadcasts, because he coached Armstrong?

What an ego/career boost to be Lance’s go-to nutritionist, explaining to fans that an important piece in Lance’s puzzle of success was genius nutritional practices. I’d like to know Carmichael’s comments on all that now. It’s not about the food, and those who know me know how that breaks my heart.

SCANDELOUS: Cycling isn’t the only sport suffering crippling blows. Soccer is having its own epic scandal in match-fixing. The New York Times article states:

The extent was staggering: some 150 international matches, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America; roughly 380 games in Europe, covering World Cup and European championship qualifiers as well as two Champions League games; and games that run the gamut from lower-division semiprofessional matches to contests in top domestic leagues.

WHERE’S MIKE NOW? You guys saw the movie, The Blind Side, right? It’s based on the true story of a football player named Michael Oher, who was a kid without a home until he was adopted into the Tuohy family. He also happens to play in the NFL for the Ravens, which means holy crap! He won the Super Bowl! Congratulations, Michael.

Michael Vick bought a dog (terrier) for his kids. Vick is the NFL player who did time for running a dog fighting ring. Luckily for Vick, the dog seems unaware of its owner’s past. Animal rights activists, on the other hand, never forget. Death threats were made to Vick and his family, forcing the cancellation of his autobiography book tour.

VONN & ME: Here’s more on Lindsey Vonn and how her experience differs from mine and yours.

The Today Show mentioned Vonn also suffers from depression (since 2002 – treatment in 2008 precluded great success). Freshly emerged from the pond that is post-surgery depression myself, I’m wondering if Vonn’s is exacerbated by always being injured. As my physical therapist put it, “Those two things don’t mix.”

bath timeElite athlete that she is, Vonn is already recovering from surgery performed February 10.

I had to wait three weeks minimum to see a surgeon and “pre-hab” an additional five weeks or so to get enough strength and flexibility for the surgeon to agree on a date. Of course, I can barely ski down a blue trail in good form.

My physical therapist tells me:

a) Elite athletes use orthopedic trauma surgeons who specialize in performing surgery while the knee (in this case) is still in a state of trauma, meaning there’s still a lot of swelling.

b) Athletes tend to use their own tendons for ligament grafts, rather than cadaver grafts. While using a cadaver would mean a less invasive procedure, it can also result in a slower, sometimes less-effective recovery. (I used my own patellar tendon, as did Vonn.)

c) The healing process immediately following surgery isn’t significantly accelerated for athletes compared to a healthy person. The difference lies in the rehab. Of course, the fitter you are going in, the better off you are coming out.

d) Elite athletes have access to all the latest, greatest, expensive rehab treatment methods including a personal P.T. for several hours a day, daily massage, acupuncture, E-stim, etc. Those things do help strengthen the body significantly faster, complimenting a huge dose of athlete motivation.

e) While Vonn tore both her ACL and MCL, it’s likely only her ACL was reconstructed.

As for me, I’m thrilled that at 17 weeks post-op, I could walk down stairs in good form and use the elliptical trainer for 10-minute bursts. I look great on a stationary bike. I can even do little hops on the balls of my feet. Talk about a mood booster.

Happy Kind & Peaceful 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).

Summer – Was it just a dream?

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Remember the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race in Colorado? It Tom Danielsonconcluded August 26 and included fan favorite Jens Voigt, third place winner of the 2012 Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali, and Americans Tejay van Garderen, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie in his final professional race – among other recognizable names.

Like Barry Bonds for instance who, it turns out, is popping up at these high-profile, domestic races because his girlfriend is a cycling enthusiast and introduced Bonds to the sport. He’s not just watching; he’s riding. In fact, Bonds rode the 2011 El Tour de Tucson.

Been there, done that. It’s a great race. This year, it falls on November 17, if you want to try your luck at seeing and dropping Bonds on a hill – or not. (You tell me.)

IS NOTHING SACRED? These past several years, it’s become almost standard to see a cyclist in the Tour de France reach deep into his spandex, stretch his manhood into daylight and reduce his cadence for "au natural" break. Sometimes, he stops at the side of the road. Sometimes, he keeps right on rolling.

Five or so years ago, the camera respected the privacy of the cyclist, resulting in the inevitable “Ask Bobke” question each year: “Bob – How the heck do the guys pee?”

On a recent weekend ride, a friend commented how the Tour de France peloton must be one cootiefied pack of men. Why, yes they are, my friend. Day One of the USA Pro Challenge, we were treated to live, and tortured with replay footage of Dave Zabriskie simultaneously peddling and hurling his breakfast as commentator Phil Liggett explained DZ had literally turned himself “inside out” to get up a brutal mountain climb.

Is there nothing these men don’t do on their bikes? This also begs the Ask Bobke question whether, as DZ emptied into his front wheel, chunks came spinning back toward him? Ick.

Liggett also leaked what we’ve suspected all along: that cyclists shave their legs because it looks better. Sure it’s easier, if they crash, to be bandaged. Oh – and they get a lot of massages.

GOLDEN: Remember the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics? When this guy in skinny jeans sporting a healthy pair of chops for sideburns rung that big bell? That happened to be Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who went on to win gold in the Olympic Time Trial and said in an interview afterward,

I don’t think my sporting career will ever top that. What a month it’s been. I won the Tour de France and the time trial at London in the Olympic Games. That’s it now. It’s never, ever going to get any better than that.

After winning gold in Athens, Wiggins admits in his autobiography, he went on a nine-month bender.

Genuine well-wishes to Wiggins, that he doesn’t experience a double-dose of withdrawal from this year’s victories.

If you fought to keep a dry eye during the Olympics, you’d have blown through an entire tissue box watching the 2011 Ironman on the NBC Sports Network. The folks struggling to make the time cut-off are heart-wrenching as they weave and stumble their way to the finish, falling and fighting to get back up, delirious. Several are in their 70s and 80s and you realize as much as exhaustion, they’re battling the fear of being too old to succeed in physical challenges.

That’s gonna be me. Except I’ll do a Sprint Tri. (Duh.)

The sleeper event of the London Olympics had to be marathon swimming. Cycling fans know of the Feed Zone: a predetermined location where cyclists ride by team staff during a stage and grab their meal-on-the-go bags of food and drink. In marathon swimming, team staff hold poles over the water with flags of countries attached beneath a cup holder with gels or electrolyte water or whatever. It’s no easy task ingesting mid-stroke. Twenty percent electrolyte water, 80 percent sea water. (Aren’t they the same?)

Did you catch the Independent Olympic Athletes dancing in the Parade of Nations? The team was composed of athletes with no country to represent, as has been the case in only two previous Games. The 2012 IOA were from the former Netherlands Antilles and the brand new South Sudan. They at least deserved gold for positive energy, but went home empty-handed.

During the closing ceremonies, the best pick-up line I managed to lip-read was, “You know the 150,000 condoms handed out to athletes? I saved two for you.”

Did you see any Paralympic competition? If not, you missed some of the most intriguing, thought-provoking, passionate sports entertainment there is. This article provides a taste of what I’m referring to. For starters, in the opening ceremonies, a Marine veteran with no legs or prosthetics from the knees down, suspended from a zip-line, lit the flame before he “stood” face-to-face with a person with legs. Eerie.

Peter SaganRISING STAR: Like summer naps, long-past now is the Tour de France. What still makes me smile are the celebrations of 22-year-old sprinter Peter Sagan as he crossed the finish line first, three times in the first week. By “celebrate,” we’re not talking the traditional arms raised or fist pump. Sagan evolved from the Funky Chicken to Forrest Gump and finally, seeing as he wore green, the Incredible Hulk. This <3-minute summary of Stage 6 includes footage of a high-speed crash that ultimately resulted in the abandonment of 13 riders, but concludes with The Hulk.

By the way, Sagan wore that green, points jersey all the way to Paris. His reward from Liquigas Cannondale Team President? A Porsche. Su-weet!

What say we talk more about crashes. This year’s Tour began with 198 riders on 22 teams. At the conclusion, only four teams were intact and 153 riders remained. That’s a lot of work for the race “mobile medic.” It’s just what you’d guess: when a rider crashes and gets back on his bike, a medic pulls alongside him to clean and dress the wounds as the cyclist hangs onto the side of the moving vehicle – at around 25 mph. Sure, there’ve been times when the medic car and medicated cyclist do each other more harm than good….

And while Sagan was this Tour’s most entertaining sprinter, Mark Cavendish might have the most interesting family.

TIMBITS: God, I hate to bring this up, but I’d seem out of touch if I didn’t and I suppose it’s that much more intriguing, with Armstrong giving up the fight. So in doping news, here’s an interesting statement taken from this [scroll down to Aug. 27] comprehensive article:

…between 1996 and 2006, the sport has not had a single champion untainted by doping. The timeline reads: Riis, Ullrich, Pantani, Armstrong, Landis, and here we sit, seven years later with a big asterisk next to the Tour!

Confessed doper and former teammate of Armstrong,  Tyler Hamilton,Tyler Hamilton finally came out with his book about the subject, The Secret Race. Here’s the article in SI, with an interview of Hamilton.

That has long since overshadowed that, after the second week of this year’s Tour, Frank Schleck tested positive for the diuretic Xipamide and his team, RadioShack, withdrew him from the Tour. While Xipamide isn’t an illegal substance, it’s used for its “masking” effect on banned substances. Frank requested his B sample be tested, stating that if it was positive, he’d been “poisoned.” It came back positive.

Fresh off his own doping suspension, Alberto Contador won the exciting Vuelta a Espana.

So many questions, so few answers.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.