Category Archives: Sports

McIlroy wins PGA in thrilling show on soggy turf


McIlroy seems to be the real deal. Winning 4 Majors at age 25 is no easy task,  only Jack and of course, Tiger, won 4 Majors at a younger age (Tiger was 24). Personally, I wanted Phil Mickelson to win. He must feel sick this morning, losing a Major by just one lousy stroke.

As for Tiger, I believe he’s washed-up. He may win another Major someday down the road, but that’s about it. He’ll never catch Jack Nicklaus now. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

Rory

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The challenge finally arrived for Rory McIlroy, and he was better than ever to win the PGA Championship.

On a back nine filled with as much tension as a major can provide, McIlroy emerged from a four-man battle with flawless golf to outlast Phil Mickelson and the darkness Sunday at Valhalla and capture his second straight major.

McIlroy closed with a 3-under 68 and became only the fourth player in the last century of golf to win four majors at 25 or younger. The others were Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones, three of the game’s greatest players.

Boy Wonder appears on his way to belonging in that group.

“I didn’t think in my wildest dreams I’d have a summer like this,” said McIlroy, only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year. “I played the best golf of my life. I really gutted it out today.”

But one of the greatest shows on soggy turf came with a most peculiar ending.

McIlroy hit a 9-iron from a fairway bunker on the 17th hole to 10 feet and made the birdie putt to take a two-shot lead to the par-5 18th. Because of a two-hour rain delay, darkness was falling quickly and it wasn’t certain McIlroy would be able to finish.

He was allowed to tee off even before Mickelson and Rickie Fowler had reached their golf balls in the fairway. Both were only two shots behind and still in the game. McIlroy came within a yard of hitting into a hazard right of the fairway. Mickelson and Fowler had to stand to the side of the green to allow McIlroy to play his second shot.

The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland hit into a bunker and had to two-putt from 35 feet for a one-shot win.

Moments earlier, Mickelson came within inches of chipping in for eagle. He settled for a 6-under 66 and a runner-up for the ninth time in a major. Fowler, the first player in history to finish in the top five at all four majors without winning, also had a chance with a long eagle putt. He missed badly, and then missed the short birdie putt.

Fowler closed with a 68 and tied for third with Henrik Stenson, who also had a share of the lead until missing a 3-foot par putt on the 14th putt. He never recovered from that and shot 66.

McIlroy finished at 16-under 268. The victory was his third in a row, following the British Open and World Golf Championship event last week at Firestone.

Performance against US proves Belgium is for real


I’m rooting for Belgium in this one… Those self-centered Argentinians need to learn to be a bit more humble, and what better way to show them they’re really not that good than to defeat them in one of the world’s biggest stages! TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AP – Sports

Soccer

SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — The stirring performance against the United States provided a shot in the arm for Belgium, and some more.

Now, with its reputation restored in the wake of a 2-1 victory over the Americans in the second round of the World Cup, Belgium is looking full of confidence ahead of the match against Argentina in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

”Argentina must have some doubts now,” Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said.

Belgium produced a relentless series of attacks against the Americans, while their defense only started showing cracks in the final minutes of extra time.

In group play, Belgium had made it abundantly clear it was excellent in defense, but three low-scoring, one-goal victories had cast doubt that its forward line could create chances.

Then came 27 shots on goal against the Americans.

It took the best goalkeeping performance of this World Cup from Tim Howard to keep the U.S. team in the match until extra time, but the attacks just never stopped.

And again, Wilmots made savvy substitutions to finally force a way through.

Teenage striker Divock Origi first tired the opposing defense for 90 minutes and peppered Howard with several shots and headers. He then made way for Romelu Lukaku in extra time.

After three minutes, Lukaku was the master behind the first goal when the stretched U.S. defense failed to fully clear his cross, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to steal it back and score from close range.

De Bruyne returned the favor by setting up Lukaku for a booming drive that turned out to be the decisive goal.

”We knew that he could be the hero of the night,” Belgium captain Vincent Kompany said. ”It was so predictable.”

It was almost uncanny that two rejects of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho – Lukaku was twice sent on loan, and De Bruyne was transferred during the winter break – have been providing the goods for Wilmots in World Cup qualifying and at the tournament in Brazil.

And Mourinho’s protege, Eden Hazard, again failed to make the creative impact for Belgium. Instead, the sparkling play came from De Bruyne, who revitalized his career over the past months with Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.

In truth, beyond Howard, the United States looked to be the easiest opponent in the second round with a spongy defense that somehow did not get totally overrun by first-round opposition.

Argentina should be a lot tougher, having conceded only three goals in four games.

Kompany should know what he is up against since he will be playing Manchester City teammates Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta, who usually are part of his line of defense.

And what’s more, the Belgians will no longer be favored against a team which includes Lionel Messi.

”That is a role that will now suit us,” Kompany said.

Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

The Masters 2014 TV schedule: Who to watch Friday


The Masters just isn’t the same without Tiger Woods, who by the way, in my opinion is basically washed-up. A couple of years ago I would never have said that, as I thought by now he would have caught Jack Nicklaus with 18 major titles. He’ll probably win another major before it’s all said and done, but I don’t believe he’ll win another four majors; no way – his body is just breaking down too often. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

After a spectacular first round Thursday, over 90 players will try to equal or improve their spot on the Masters leaderboard Friday and survive the cut for weekend play.

Christian Science Monitor

PGA Tour pro Bill Haas comes from a golf family. His dad, Jay, has been a longtime member of the PGA Tour, winning nine times on the regular Tour and 16 times on the Champions Tour. Dad never won the Masters, but son has put himself in a good position after the first round of golf’s first major tournament.

Bill Haas shot a four under 68 Thursday to take a one-shot lead over three players – defending champion Adam Scott, former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, and 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson, who all carded three under 69s.

There’s a group of seven golfers, led by first-time players Kevin Stadler, Jonas Blixt of Sweden, and Jimmy Walker, who shot two under par 70 Thursday.

And, at one under par 71, you’ll find some familiar names, such as former champion Fred Couples, Rory McIlroy, and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

As for Friday’s tee times, which are all in the Eastern time zone, here are some of the notables:

American Nick Watney, who’s four shots back at even par, will tee off at 8:29 a.m.

Louis Oosthuizen, who is part of a threesome with Matt Kuchar of the US, will tee off at 8:51 a.m.

Former two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer of Germany, who’s also at even par after the first round, starts his second round at 9:24 a.m.

Bubba Watson, playing with Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, tees off the first hole at 9:57 a.m.

Phil Mickelson hopes to play better on Friday, after shooting a four over 76. He tees off at 10:30 a.m.

Kevin Stadler’s group, which includes former Masters winner Ian Woosnam, will start at 11:03 a.m, followed by Jonas Blixt’s threesome at 11:14 a.m.

Fred Couples will tee off with his effortless golf swing at 12:42 p.m.

Jimmy Walker, paired with Ricky Fowler and Graeme McDowell, go off the first hole at 12:53 p.m.

Haas, the first round leader, is in a threesome with Jimenez and the young Italian star, Matteo Manassero. This group will tee off at 1:15 p.m.

Scott, the defending champion, is playing alongside Jason Duffner and Matthew Fitzpatrick, the US Amateur champion. This threesome will start their second round at 1:48 p.m.

Again on Friday, ESPN will have second round coverage, beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern time. You can also go to Masters.com to find live streaming video to check out from your computer or wireless device, starting at 10:45 a.m.

LPGA Tour boss ‘disappointed’ with Golf Digest


That’s a provocative photograph? Is he kidding? I can understand his point of portraying female golfers, but truth be told, many members of the LPGA look like bull dykes; not terribly appealing. And who wants to see photos of the same attractive woman golfers (there aren’t many) over and over again?

I believe Mike Whan needs to get over it. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

Attractive

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan weighed in Friday on Golf Digest’s provocative cover featuring Paulina Gretzky.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed and frustrated by the editorial direction (and timing) Golf Digest has chosen with the announcement of its most recent magazine cover,” Whan said in a statement at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tour’s first major tournament of the year.

“If a magazine called Golf Digest is interested in showcasing females in the game, yet consistently steers away from the true superstars who’ve made history over the last few years, something is clearly wrong. … ‘Growing the game’ means a need for more role models and in these exciting times for women’s golf, the LPGA is overflowing with them.”

The cover photo shows Gretzky in skintight capris and a bra.

Known for provocative pictures on her social media accounts, Gretzky is former hockey star Wayne Gretzky’s daughter and PGA Tour player Dustin Johnson’s fiancee.

Former LPGA Tour star Lorena Ochoa in 2008 was the last female pro to appear on the magazine’s cover. Golf Digest featured Golf Channel’s Holly Sonders in May 2013 and model Kate Upton posed with Arnold Palmer for the December issue.

“It’s frustrating for female golfers,” third-ranked Stacy Lewis said. “It’s kind of the state of where we’ve always been. We don’t get respect for being the golfers that we are. Obviously, Golf Digest is trying to sell magazines. But at the same time you’d like to see a little respect for the women’s game.”

Jerry Tarde, Golf Digest’s editor in chief, released a statement about the cover.

“Sports figures, celebrities and models have appeared on Golf Digest covers since the magazine’s beginning,” Tarde said. “Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today, and she has a compelling story to tell. She also might get some new people interested in the game.”

Super Bowl madness in NYC’s Times Square


This has the makings of a great Super Bowl. The number 1 defense (Seattle Seahawks) against the number 1 offense (Denver Broncos). Which one will win? I believe this is a 50-50 call; either team could pull it off. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Paul Sancya 

NFL

The largest show on Broadway opened in New York on Wednesday, January 29th when the city turned over a 3/4 mile stretch of Midtown for a “Super Bowl Boulevard” street fair, drawing thousands of locals and visitors.

The event, part of the build-up to Sunday’s National Football League championship game, gave football fans and the simply curious a chance to see players, try their luck at kicking a field goal in Manhattan’s intense wind or ride a 60-foot-high (18-meter-high) toboggan run. (REUTERS)

NFL playoffs: Which four teams will survive this weekend?


My guess is that Seattle, New England, Carolina and Denver will advance. But then again, there is generally an upset in this round of the playoffs… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

The final eight teams remaining in the NFL playoffs square off in four games this weekend. Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks play the New Orleans Saints and New England faces Indianapolis. On Sunday, San Francisco plays Carolina and Denver takes on San Diego.

Christian Science Monitor By Pat Murphy 

The National Football League is down to its version of the ‘Elite Eight’ as we approach this weekend’s divisional playoff round. Four teams each from the American and National conferences will try to take another step closer to Super Bowl XLVIII Feb. 2.

Saturday’s contests include Seattle hosting New Orleans in the first NFC semifinal. From a playoff history perspective, these two teams met back on January 8, 2011 in an NFC wild-card game. Sporting a 7-and-9 won-loss record to capture the NFC West that season, the Seahawks won a wild contest, 41-36, which included an incredible 67-yard touchdown run by Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.

Fast-forward to this season and the Seahawks had their way with New Orleans, beating Drew Brees and the Saints, 34-7, on Dec. 2.

Despite that outcome, the Saints have some momentum coming into this game. They finally won a road playoff game last Saturday against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, Seattle’s 12th man – the home crowd – and some opportunistic defense on the part of the top-rated Seahawks will be enough to prevail in this playoff contest.

Saturday’s game will be televised on Fox beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The New England Patriots will play host to the Indianapolis Colts in Saturday’s nightcap. The last time these two franchises met in the playoffs, Peyton Manning was still quarterbacking the Colts and led them to a come-from-behind victory over New England in the 2006 AFC championship game in Indianapolis.

Now second-year quarterback Andrew Luck is the field general in Indy. Luck cemented his place in Colts lore after leading Indianapolis to a wild-card win over the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend. The Colts overcame a 28-point second half deficit to advance in the AFC.

Like the Saints, Indianapolis benefits slightly from having played a game last weekend. But New England head coach Bill Belichick and his staff have had the time to game plan for the Colts. The Patriots have developed a solid running game – namely LeGarrette Blount – that can handle poor weather conditions, which are expected Saturday night. Thus, Tom Brady and the Pats get the pick here.

CBS will televise the Patriots and Colts, beginning at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.

Sunday starts off with the San Francisco 49ers traveling to Carolina to take on the Panthers in an NFC Divisional round game.

Earlier this season, Carolina edged the Niners in San Francisco, 10-9. The Panthers defense shut out San Francisco’s offense in the second half of the game.

This will the first time these former NFC West division rivals have met in the playoffs. The Panthers lead the overall series, 11-7.

Expect a few more points to be scored this time around with both Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and the Panthers’ Cam Newton creating some offense with their arms and legs. According to NFL.com stats, both teams are good at running with the football and stopping the run. So, this one will come down to passing. Carolina All-Pro receiver Steve Smith is injured while the 49ers Michael Crabtree returned last weekend to help them beat the Packers. San Francisco will edge out the Panthers for a second road playoff victory in two weeks.

The Panthers-49ers contest will air on Fox, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.

The final game of the weekend will be the third installment of an AFC West Division rivalry as the Denver Broncos host the San Diego Chargers. These teams split the two regular season meetings with the road team winning each game.

Peyton Manning has led the Broncos offense this season to record-breaking heights. Manning threw for 5,407 yards and 55 touchdown passes this season, besting Tom Brady’s mark of 50 set back in 2007. Denver’s offense also scored the most points in a season in the history of the NFL, with 606.

The Chargers have been playing their own version of ‘Survivor’ at the end of this current season. On the final Sunday of the regular season, San Diego had to hope two other teams would lose, then beat the Kansas City Chiefs in their finale just to have a shot at the postseason.

Then, San Diego traveled to chilly Cincinnati last weekend and defeated the Bengals in an AFC wild-card playoff game. There should be no shortage of confidence for the Chargers as they get set to meet the No. 1 seed in the AFC. However, with Manning at the controls of a potent Broncos offense, Denver should advance to host the AFC championship game on Jan. 19.

The Denver-San Diego AFC divisional playoff game will be broadcast by CBS, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

NFL Week 12 picks: Brady vs. Manning, Romo vs. Manning, and Chiefs vs. Chargers


I hope at least one of my fantasy team does well this week, as I play an undefeated (11-0) team, owned by my boss of all people, and I want to kick his ass really badly. I need Wes Welker and Tony Romo to perform at their best… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

NFL Week 12 picks: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots is the big QB showdown. As of Week 12, 25 of the 32 NFL teams remain in contention for playoff spots, with eight teams in the AFC fighting for the last wildcard spot.

Christian Science Monitor

By Julia Gofman 

While a select few National Football League (NFL) teams have seemingly clinched a spot in the postseason, the majority are still fighting to remain relevant in the playoff hunt.

The Seattle Seahawks (10-1), Indianapolis Colts (7-3), and Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) have big leads on the rest of their division opponents and are hoping a few more victories will help to crown them division champions.

The New Orleans Saints (8-2) and Denver Broncos (9-1) are on their way to the playoffs, but have the Carolina Panthers (7-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) breathing down their necks for divisional supremacy.

The Chiefs became the last unbeaten to fall as they lost last Sunday night and are hoping to jump right back aboard the winning train at 1 p.m. Eastern time at home against the San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Arrowhead Stadium.  Although losing to the Broncos in Denver may not raise the alarm, what may start to trouble Chiefs fans is the offense’s inability to generate big plays and put numbers on the board.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith’s inability to throw the ball down the field is once again under scrutiny as the team managed only one play on offense that netted more than 30 yards, a rush by running back Jamaal Charles. Alex Smith told reporters at the Miami Herald that it may not be big plays, but consistency, that will take the Chiefs offense to the next level.

“I think the biggest thing is getting into a rhythm,” Smith said, “moving some chains, getting consecutive plays ran, getting into the flow of the game, changing field position at a minimum. I think that’s where it starts.”

The Chiefs may not have to worry about playing catch-up like they did last week as they host the Chargers who are looking for a win in order to remain in the running for the last wild card spot.  Since starting 4-3, the Chargers have lost their last three straight. With four of their last six games remaining against probable playoff teams, a loss will likely knock them out of contention. The Chargers will need to treat their division match-up this week as a must-win or else it might be lights out for the team.

The NFC East has heated up considerably since the first quarter of the season and this Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. Eastern time showdown between the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) and the New York Giants (4-6) will go a long way in deciding who wins the division.

The Giants seemed all but an afterthought after their 0-6 start, but have since won four straight and jumped back into contention. The team is doing it with their defense, giving up less than 12 points a game in their four wins compared with the almost 35 they were giving up in their first six losses.

And while Giants quarterback Eli Manning is not winning games single-handedly, he also is not losing them anymore. The quarterback has only thrown two interceptions in the team’s four wins compared with 15 in his first six losses.

Veteran linebacker Jon Beason and the Giants know the importance of winning these division games.

“If we can get that one, we’ll be on our way,” Beason told the NY Times. “It’s going to be a big-time game.”

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo knows the pressure of playing in a big game and fans will hope that the bye week has given their team an advantage. The problem? Romo has lost his last three games coming out of byes. Look for a high-scoring close affair this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are two quarterbacks who have played and won their fair share of big games. This Sunday night marks the 14th match-up between the All-Pro pair as the Broncos travel to New England to face the Patriots at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The talk surrounding this game will undoubtedly center on the quarterbacks. Brady, with a career 9-4 record against Manning, is having one of his poorest offensive seasons while Manning might be on his way to setting several records in Denver. This game, however, may not be decided by the quarterbacks, but by the defense and coaching.

Last Monday, the Patriots could not slow down the Carolina Panthers offense, which converted eight of 11 third downs and put up 24 points on the Patriots. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 68% of his passes and ran for another 62 yards against the banged-up Patriots defense.

While Manning will not test the Patriots defense with his legs, he is far and away a more accomplished passer than Newton. On an injured ankle last week, Manning was impressive as ever, throwing for 323 yards and one touchdown. Even more impressive was that the Chiefs defense was not even able to register a single quarterback hit, let alone a sack, for the entire game.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has beaten Manning before and it will come down to whether or not the legendary coach can come up with a scheme that will force Manning to take sacks and make mistakes.

Talkative and revealing as ever about his game plan, Belichick told WEEI Radio, “You have to play good team defense, that’s all there is to it. It’s not just ‘Take one guy away in their offense.’ They have a lot of weapons, they execute very well.”

Belichick knows what it is like to have an excess of talent on offense, which will help him prepare for Manning and company. Fans of all teams will want to tune into this battle of NFL royalty to see which all-time great, Manning or Brady, will walk away with a win in round 14.

Seahawks rely on Lynch in 29-3 blowout of 49ers


Seattle looks like a tough team to beat. After two weeks of the 2013 NFL season, it looks as if the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are the strongest teams in the league. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: AP Sports

TIM BOOTH (AP Sports Writer)

NFL 1

SEATTLE (AP) — Richard Sherman celebrated by dancing with cheerleaders, Marshawn Lynch cut, plowed and strolled his way to three touchdowns, and Pete Carroll got one rousing birthday gift.

The awaited NFC West showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers was a one-sided rout.

Lynch scored on touchdown runs of 14 and two yards, and added a seven-yard TD reception in the second half, Seattle flustered Colin Kaepernick into his worst passing game as a starter, and the Seahawks dominated in a 29-3 win Sunday night.

”Every game we feel like we should dominate, and we did,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said.

The game was delayed 60 minutes late in the first quarter when thunderstorms blew through the area. The highly anticipated matchup was sloppy as opposed to sensational, but Lynch more than did his part.

Sun, Sep 15, 2013

San Francisco 3 Final
Seattle 29

Lynch finished with 135 total yards, including 98 yards rushing, to make up for quarterback Russell Wilson hitting on just two of his first 10 throws and Seattle’s receivers struggling to get open. His TD run on the first drive of the second half gave the Seahawks a 12-0 lead. His TD catch pushed the advantage to 19-3 early in the fourth quarter.

”We are dedicated to running the ball and we are going to keep working until we really own it, and we don’t own the running right now like we can. We’ll get better at it,” Carroll said.

This won’t be a game noted for efficiency or execution by either side. There were careless turnovers and untimely penalties. But that was expected between these nasty rivals and the favorites not just in their division but as potential NFC representatives in the Super Bowl.

And it was the Seahawks getting an early, important advantage over the 49ers.

”We did what we expected to. I think you guys expected something different. I think you guys expected something a little more Kaepernick-y,” Sherman said. ”We didn’t expect any of that. We expect guys to play discipline ball.”

Kaepernick failed to get anything going in the passing game, unable to break down Seattle’s stellar secondary. He was intercepted in the end zone in the first quarter when Earl Thomas hauled in a deflected pass intended for Vernon Davis. That was the only time the 49ers threatened to score a touchdown. Kam Chancellor intercepted Kaepernick midway through the fourth quarter, returning the pick to the San Francisco 2 and leading to Lynch’s third TD.

Then there was Sherman, Seattle’s ultra-confident All-Pro, who intercepted Kaepernick’s deep sideline pass for Davis with about 13 minutes remaining. He celebrated his first interception of the season by dancing with the Seahawks cheer squad. Steven Hauschka kicked a 37-yard field goal, and the Seahawks’ lead was 22-3 with 11:31 left.

”He should probably stay at cornerback,” Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate joked about Sherman. ”I don’t see a future in that.”

And just because Carroll can’t stop competing, he challenged and won the Seahawks another turnover following a kickoff fumble with 4:15 left and the Seahawks leading by 26.

Wilson finished 8 of 19 passing for 142 yards, one of the worst games in his young career. Kaepernick was 13 of 28 for 127 yards passing, and he ran for another 87 yards. His three interceptions matched his entire season total from 2012. Frank Gore was held to just 16 yards on nine carries, and Anquan Boldin, who tortured Green Bay last week for 13 catches and 208 yards, was targeted just once in the first three quarters. His only catch came with 9:40 remaining.

Boldin was shadowed most of the night by Sherman. It was a request Sherman made following Boldin’s big day a week ago and with the Seahawks minus their other starting cornerback Brandon Browner.

”I asked Coach for the challenge,” Sherman said. ”I wanted to follow him. There were a lot of things said this week.”

The 49ers finished with five turnovers and no TDs in a game for the third time since the start of 1979 season.

”I don’t think any of us are proud of our performance,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Leading 5-0 at halftime after a wacky first half of delays and points coming via safety and a field goal, Seattle started the second half going to Lynch. He carried on the first four plays, and when Seattle faced third-and-12, Wilson scrambled and bought time for Doug Baldwin to get open downfield for a 51-yard reception to the 20. After a penalty backed up the Seahawks to the 14, Lynch took an inside handoff and darted nearly untouched for his first touchdown of the season.

Seattle extended the lead later in the half thanks to a careless personal foul penalty from Aldon Smith, slapping the helmet of Seattle’s Breno Giacomini behind the play after Zach Miller and the Seahawks were stopped short on third-and-28. Given another chance, Wilson stayed in the pocket against blitzing safety Craig Dahl on third-and-4 to find Lynch wide open in the left flat. Lynch took a few steps toward the end zone, stopped and waited, and finally crossed the goal line, pushing the lead to 22-3.

”He was saying he just took a couple of seconds off the clock,” Wilson said.

Notes: Seattle played the final three quarters without starting left tackle Russell Okung, who was out with a toe injury. Carroll said he didn’t know the severity. … San Francisco lost nose tackle Ian Williams (ankle) and safety Eric Reid (head) to injuries. Davis also injured a hamstring. … Seattle held San Francisco’s three running backs who carried the ball to 13 total yards on 11 attempts. … The crowd of 68,338 was the largest for a Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Willie Colon lose their cool at end of Patriots-Jets


That entire Thursday night game was ugly; not just the ending. Brady has to be a magician to continue winning with the “talent” around him at the skill positions. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner

Football

Three-fifths of the New York Jets’ offensive line could face some discipline from the league offices.

Center Nick Mangold, right guard Willie Colon and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson all were involved in a big scrum at the end of the New England Patriots’ ugly 13-10 victory at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night.

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Mangold went low to tackle Patriots corner Aqib Talib, who had just essentially sealed the victory with his second pick of the game with 38 seconds remaining. Instead of just going down, or out of bounds, Talib dilly-dallied and Ferguson went low to tackle Talib as he stepped out, hitting him below the knees.

That set off a fight near the Patriots’ sideline that involved several players from both teams. Ferguson was seen throwing multiple punches, and Colon made contact with an official, which is a big no-no. Ferguson and Colon both were flagged for their plays and ejected from the game just before the Patriots took a final knee to end it.

It’s not an automatic suspension for any of the three players, but the league made a point of fining Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh heavily for a low hit on an interception last week against the Vikings.

Mangold defended his actions after the game and said that New England head coach Bill Belichick talked back to him afterwards.

Whatever his excuse, the NFL might disagree. There could be a few FedEx packages waiting for all three players in their lockers this week.

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Chip Kelly makes fast impression in Eagles debut


Michael Vick and the Philadelphia offense looked awesome. The question is, are they going to be consistent over an entire 16-game season and into the playoffs; should they make it that far?

The jury is still out, but after one game, they sure look like the real thing… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Yahoo Sports

NFL

LANDOVER, Md. – The onslaught started with four Philadelphia snaps in the first minute of play. Yes, four plays in one minute. “I don’t think you can get too much faster than that,” Michael Vick said. Yeah, well, don’t challenge Chip Kelly to find out.

The four plays went for 56 yards and that was probably all anyone really needed to know that the Kelly experiment in the NFL was going to work, let alone lead to an opening night 33-27 victory over Washington that wasn’t really as close as it looks.

There were 30 plays run in the first quarter alone. There were 322 first-half yards, the Eagles seemingly slowed only by suspicious leg cramps of Washington defenders. There was just one big blur after the next, Kelly’s Oregon Ducks reborn in the pros.

Did the country just witness a revolution in the National Football League?

“Maybe so,” Vick, he of two touchdowns throwing and another rushing, said in a way that sure sounded like a knowing yes.

Kelly, the 49-year-old revolutionary in the Eagles visor, was asked about his play-calling. Had he even bothered to reach all the way into his bag?

“Bag?”

Bag of tricks, he was told.

“I don’t think it was a bag of tricks,” Kelly said. “It was just football.”

If this is just football then this also may be the future. The furious tempo and spread attack that swept the college ranks over the past decade or so made its full and complete entry in the NFL Monday. As opening nights go, this one played to rave reviews.

“That,” said owner Jeffrey Lurie, who lured Kelly to Philly, “was a great dream.”

Or a nightmare for defensive coordinators. Kelly and the other proponents of this style of play have been influencing the league for a few years now. Indianapolis, Denver and, especially, New England have all applied the principles of the tempo to their attacks. But this isn’t borrowing.

This is what Chip Kelly is about, full-throttle, full-attack, full enjoyment.

“It’s really a game,” Kelly said. “Sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously. We love playing football. There’s a passion to it. That is the way it should be played.

“I had a lot of fun tonight. I think our guys had a lot of fun.”

The guys had fun. You can be sure of that. Vick looked like he was 22 again, throwing for 203 yards, rushing for 54, even getting out there and laying down multiple blocks. LeSean McCoy ran for 184 yards and a TD. DeSean Jackson caught seven passes for 104 and a score. Everyone was running in space. The stats would’ve been higher, but Philly held a huge lead in the third quarter and tried to slow down the game and run clock. It almost cost the Eagles, but they held on in the end.

“We’ve got to look at that,” Kelly said.

“There will be games we have to press for four quarters,” Vick promised, looking like he couldn’t wait.

“It was a crazy game,” Vick continued. “I’ve never been a part of anything like. When the first quarter was over, I thought we were about to go to halftime. It was unreal. The only thing I can tell myself is, it’s going to be a long season.”

Imagine being the other guys. At the start of the game, all along the Eagles sideline, the Philly defense made sure to get a front-row spot to watch what it had been stuck practicing against since April.

As the Eagles began roaring over Washington, as defenders huffed and puffed and supposedly got injured to slow down the pace, they could only cackle with delight. They’d been waiting months to see this.

“It was awesome,” linebacker Trent Cole said. “I wasn’t surprised one bit.”

“I’m happy to be on their side [rather] than out there defending them,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “As a defense, to sit back and watch an offense, wear a defense down like they did, it’s very fun to watch.”

“[Washington was] having a hard time lining up,” McCoy noted.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, but across the Eagles locker room, the players weren’t enjoying just the satisfaction of a victory or the joy of winning. There was a sense this was the start of something very big.

Everyone is going to just get better as the offense gets fine-tuned. There’s more to it. Wait until the Eagles work out the kinks. And the defense thinks it’s sharper than ever, just from having to practice against the offense. Robert Griffin III wasn’t so scary this year.

“I have to say, from playing them in the past, the game [seemed] a lot slower to me,” Cole said. “I always thought they were the fast team. It just seemed like they were slow out there. It looked like it was slow because look who we are playing against. That’s who we’ve got to go against in every practice.”

Mainly this was just fun. Kelly was laughing and smiling throughout the game. Players were hugging him and knocking his visor off. This may be the pros, but it felt rather collegiate.

That, more than the offensive innovation, is what Lurie said he saw in Kelly. That this system worked – against the opinion of many critics – is just a bonus.

“I saw him as a program builder not as an offensive technician,” Lurie said. “I was looking for someone who builds programs and brings people together and, at the same time, has a smart, dynamic mind. It wasn’t about taking a certain offense to the pros, it was bigger than that.”

Kelly shrugged off a lot of the praise, a lot of the standard business of a postgame NFL news conference. On the number of plays: “We don’t count plays. We never have.” On whether he was concerned Vick got hit too often: “He seemed pretty happy.”

He shrugged. Just enjoy it, he was saying.

“We’ve said since day one it’s a game, it doesn’t have to be run like a business,” Kelly said. “We don’t practice like a business, we don’t train like it’s a business. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are excited about being at work every day, and they make us coaches be ready for them because these guys are going to challenge us. It keeps us sharp.”

It’s something you only rarely hear in the control-freak, deathly serious NFL.

“He’s a dynamic coach who has his own way of approaching football,” Lurie said.

Back in the locker room, right after the game, Lurie walked up to Kelly and handed him a special commemorative game ball marking his first victory. They’d taken a chance on each other last spring – the owner going to the college ranks, the college coach jumping to the pros.

History is littered with failure in marriages like this. If there were every any second thoughts, they’re long gone now.

“The first,” Lurie said he told Kelly, “of very many.”

Opening night on Broadway couldn’t have gone any better.

Tim Tebow reportedly turns down NFL team’s inquiry at position other than quarterback


I believe we all know by now that Tim Tebow isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, if for no other reason that he really can’t read defenses. Additionally, evangelical Christians aren’t exactly known for their high IQs, quite the contrary. Having said that, when is he going to realize that he doesn’t have what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. Face it Timmy boy, you suck as a quarterback. You had your moments of glory with Denver, so be thankful for that. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner

Tim Tebow is an NFL free agent quarterback. Emphasis on the last word.

According to TheMMQB’s Peter King, speaking Thursday night on the NBC broadcast, Tebow received an “inquiry” about joining an NFL team at a position other than quarterback. King reports that Tebow declined the request. He also has said no to Canadian football and US Rugby.

Tebow wants to play quarterback. In the NFL. That’s it, apparently. He pretty much spelled it out in a tweet last week, which said in part:

“I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback.”

When Tebow signed this offseason with the Patriots, there was immediate chatter about him switching to tight end to compensate for them losing Rob Gronkowski to injury and Aaron Hernandez to murder charges. The move never happened. Tebow received some training-camp snaps as a personal protector on the punt team, but his uniform number — 5 —indicated he was primarily viewed in New England as a quarterback. And apparently, not a good enough one, as he was cut.

After being released by the Broncos, Jets and Patriots — teams with varying degrees of quarterback proficiency, ahem — Tebow might need to look in the mirror. We can’t blame a young man for chasing his dreams, and we commend his drive, but playing quarterback in the NFL again might be pretty tough to achieve at this point.

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Peyton Manning ties NFL record with seven touchdown passes in rout of Ravens


The Denver Broncos’ offense looked unstoppable last night, as they made minced-meat out of (for me) the much hated Baltimore Ravens. Of course, Peyton Manning won’t look this good every night as he will more than likely never sniff seven touchdown passes in a game again, but with those receivers and as good as their defense will be when they get all their starters back, they will be tough to beat…

Needless to say, those who had Peyton Manning as their starting quarterback in fantasy football are all smiles this morning. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner @ Yahoo

DENVER – From 1969 to Thursday night, no NFL player had thrown seven touchdowns in a game.

But, we haven’t seen many players like Peyton Manning in the last 44 years, either.

Manning threw seven touchdowns in a game at 37 years old. He’s supposed to be getting ready for retirement, like John Elway, Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Steve Young did at age 38. But it seems like Manning’s prime might last forever.

When Manning threw his sixth touchdown Thursday night, it was the third time in his career he had done that, which is an NFL record. His seventh came on a quick screen to Demaryius Thomas, who took it 78 yards for the record-tying score. And this wasn’t against a terrible team playing out the string; this came on opening night against the defending Super Bowl champions, the same team that beat Denver in the playoffs last season. Manning completed 27-of-42 passes for 462 yards, to go with those seven touchdowns. He’s the sixth player in NFL history to throw seven touchdowns in a game. The Broncos steamrolled the Ravens 49-27 in the NFL’s kickoff game.

This was the type of performance that people will talk about many years from now. Remember when Manning threw seven touchdowns that Thursday night in Denver against the defending champs?

Make no mistake, this win doesn’t make up for what happened last January to the Ravens in the playoffs. But the way Manning played, and way the rest of the team rallied around him, it sure seems the Broncos are confident they can make up for that playoff disappointment this year.

The only way you could tell this wasn’t the same Manning from his late 20s was the way some balls fluttered. He doesn’t have a great deep ball anymore. But he always found the open guy. Julius Thomas got in the end zone twice. Wes Welker scored twice. So did Thomas. Andre Caldwell had the other score. The last time someone threw seven touchdowns in a game was Sept. 28, 1969, when Joe Kapp did it.

Manning finished second to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in the MVP voting last season. Manning had a tremendous season, his first in Denver. Manning has a great chance to win his fifth MVP this season. The team is going to ask him to do a lot, without a proven running game and especially when the defense is without suspended linebacker Von Miller. Denver’s addition of Welker might help Manning put up numbers he never has before, not even in his Colts days.

It’s one week. There are countless stories of a team playing well in the season opener and that being a laughable memory by the time their season quietly passes in December. But it sure seems like Manning and the Broncos are serious about making up for what happened here last January. Especially if Manning continues to play like the end of his prime is nowhere in sight.

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Broncos hope playoff failure is springboard again


Are you ready for some football? I am! Can’t wait for the season to begin, and am looking forward to winning 2 out of the 3 Fantasy Football leagues I’m in… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Manning

DENVER (AP) — John Elway the executive is about to find out if he’s as good at bouncing back as John Elway the quarterback was.

Elway compares the heartbreak of Denver’s loss to Baltimore in the playoffs last January to Jacksonville’s upset of the well-rested Broncos 17 years earlier when they also were 13-3 and the AFC’s prohibitive Super Bowl favorite.

The Broncos bounced back to win the next two Super Bowls.

”And believe me, that’s what I’m praying that we’re going to do these next two, three, four years is to use last year and be able to get over the hump and get to the Super Bowl and be able to win it,” said Elway, now the Broncos executive vice president.

As a player, Elway trudged through the tunnel at Mile High in deafening silence after a stunning 30-27 home loss to the Jaguars.

He made the same lonely walk in a suit and tie eight months ago following Denver’s 38-35 loss to the Ravens at Sports Authority Field.

The Broncos kick off the new season against the Super Bowl champion Ravens on Thursday night at Sports Authority Field, site of Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown toss to Jacoby Jones over Rahim Moore that tied the game at 35 with a-half minute left in regulation.

As a player, Elway used the heartbreak off the loss to the Jaguars to stoke his internal fire as he guided the Broncos to a Super Bowl win over Green Bay a year later.

”It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year,” Elway said.

This time, he’s using the gut-wrenching early exit from the playoffs to make sure there’s no complacency at Dove Valley again. He added Wes Welker, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Louis Vasquez as the crown jewels of a $125 million offseason spending spree.

Peyton Manning said Elway created an ”uncomfortable atmosphere” at team headquarters to keep everyone motivated this offseason.

”We still kind of have a scar from losing that playoff game and I think players need to kind of be reminded of that daily,” Manning said when the Broncos gathered for training camp.

”You’d better have a drive,” Manning said. ”You’d better have a goal for every season and when you have a hunger, whatever you want to call it, a thirst, a little fire in your belly. So, I think certainly our team’s had that and it’s about trying to go a little further, trying to finish.”

Former Broncos such as Alfred Williams, who was a defensive end in Denver in the late 1990s and now is a radio personality in the Mile High City, said the only way to turn the pain of a playoff failure into something good is to ”keep it on the dashboard, not in the rearview.”

It’s something you want to get over, but never forget, he said.

”They had about four to five minutes of bad football toward the end of that game that cost them. A lot,” former Broncos great Terrell Davis said of Denver’s latest playoff heartbreak. ”It was like one decision after another after another. And so now you have to say, ‘Listen, if we ever get back into that situation, we’re going to do something different.’

”And that’s what we did. We knew we were the better team – we weren’t that day against Jacksonville – but we just tell ourselves that nobody could stop us if we don’t stop ourselves. And that’s the way we would play.”

Hall of Fame tackle Gary Zimmerman put off retirement for a year so he could make amends in 1997 after the loss to the Jaguars, keeping the defeat fresh in his mind as motivation.

”That was embarrassing. It was, you could use every adjective. It devastated me because I thought (a win) was going to happen. I had gone my whole career, had never been there, I thought this was it, I could retire, be happy. And then it didn’t happen. We came back the following year, we went through so many obstacles, went in as a wild card, nobody gave us a chance, we fight our way to the Super Bowl,” Zimmerman said.

”So, I think they’ll be really poised for some adversity this year. If some adversity hits them, it won’t be anything compared to what hit them last year. I think this will be a positive for them in the long run for them, as it was for us.”

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Scouts’ Honor: Tim Tebow Not Fit for NFL, CFL, or Arena League, Unless…


I have a friend who is a die-hard Tim Tebow fan. The reason: he graduated from the University of Florida, just as Tebow did. I know other people who love Tim Tebow because he’s a “devout Christian,” whatever that means. In my eyes, that’s a negative, not a positive. The point is that people’s love for Tim Tebow is all well and good, but they shouldn’t be blinded into thinking that he’s a good quarterback, or a mediocre quarterback, or even a bad quarterback. The fact is that he’s not fit to be an NFL quarterback. He was great in college, period. If it wasn’t for his prayer-crap he would just be another college star without the necessary skills to play for the NFL.

Refer to story below. Source: Bleacher Report

By

Mike Freeman

(NFL National Lead Writer) on August 21, 2013

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To some who are watching Tim Tebow struggle to play quarterback for the New England Patriots—and struggle is a mighty generous way to describe what he’s doing—there is but one conclusion.

It’s not just that Tebow can no longer play quarterback, or any other skill position, in the NFL—it’s that unless Tebow switches to a strictly blocking position, he is not talented enough to play in leagues like the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League.

Tebow’s skills have eroded so quickly, so shockingly fast—think heavy boulder dropped from low orbit—that it has actually stunned several scouts who have watched him closely for years.

The belief is that Tebow has been and will continue to be so bad, that the Patriots will have no choice but to cut him loose from the roster.

Now, just to be clear: None of this is presented as Tebow-bashing or a type of huge exposé. To some, this isn’t even shocking. To me, some of this was. Scouts I trust saying Tebow isn’t fit to play arena ball?

Then I thought about it. I watched him play this preseason when he threw for negative yards and looked as graceful as two toddlers playing catch with a bag of angry cats. I talked to more people, watched Tebow highlights from his Florida Gator and Denver Broncos days.

And, I’ll be damned. It’s clear. Tebow’s career as anything but a blocking fullback is over.

The reason why is speed. Speed doesn’t just kill; speed is currency in football. It’s the dollar, the deutsche mark. A player without a basic modicum of it is a brontosaurus in a league of tyrannosaurus rex.

That lack of speed is evident in three critical phases of Tebow’s game: His throwing motion, his mental acuity and his ability to avoid tacklers.

It’s not simply that he can’t do these things now. We knew that. What’s stunning, upon closer examination, is the rapidity with which these skills have been lost.

In the preseason opener against Philadelphia, Tebow was 4-of-12 passing for 55 yards. He was sacked three times and had a passer rating of 49. Then, against Tampa Bay, he had just one completion, an interception and finished with a passer rating of zero.

My suspicion is that the physical punishment he endured starting at Florida and continuing through the NFL has taken its toll in ways we may not have noticed before.

Look at Tebow at Florida versus Tebow now. He didn’t blast by some of the best defenses in the SEC on his good looks and charisma. He did have speed. And he did have skill.

Scouts say they don’t recognize the Tebow they saw in college. His regression has been so steep that I don’t believe there is a league he can now play in.

The problem with Tebow playing in the CFL is that, while the league is obviously a lesser platform than the NFL, it’s still pretty good. Don’t forget: Warren Moon, who in my opinion is one of the top 10 NFL quarterbacks of all time, played in the CFL.

The level of athleticism has progressed significantly since Moon transitioned to the NFL in the early 80s. Also, the CFL has always been a passing league, and Tebow can’t, you know, pass. Or run.

The Arena Football League might even be a tougher league for Tebow. The arena game is gimmicky, but passing accuracy is vital because of the fast pace and claustrophobic field. All that league does is pass.

The AFL MVP this past season was Erik Meyer. He played then-Division I-AA football at Eastern Washington and was one of the most accurate passers in I-AA history.

In his current state, Tebow wouldn’t last 10 minutes in either of those leagues.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says Tebow is improving, but no one believes that. There’s no way even Belichick believes that. Barring a transplant of Bart Starr’s mitochondria into Tebow’s synapses, what we are seeing with Tebow is the end.

Unless he becomes a blocker.

Tim Tebow: Why the Patriots will keep him


If anyone can utilize Tim Tebow’s skills to their fullest, it’s Bill Belichick… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Tim Tebow had a poor passing game against the Tampa Bay Bucs Friday. But there’s a good case for keeping Tim Tebow as the Patriots’ No. 3 quarterback.

Christian Science Monitor

David Clark Scott

Tim Tebow’s pre-season passing performance with the New England Patriots has not been impressive.

And that’s being generous.

Against the Tampa Bay Bucaneers Friday night, Tebow completed one of seven passing attempts, for a grand total of negative 1 yard. He rushed four times for 31 yards.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles the previous week, Tebow did a little better. He completed four of his 12 attempts for 55 yards. He was sacked three times.

But poor passing won’t keep Tebow off the New England Patriots 53-man roster. Pats coach Bill Belichick will likely keep him anyway. No, not as a tight end. He will make the team as the Pats No. 3 quarterback.

Here’s the case for keeping Tebow.

Bilichick is giving every indication he wants Tebow on the team. After the poor performance against the Bucs at Gillette Stadium, Belichick didn’t throw Tebow under the bus. When asked if he thought Tebow was improving, Bilichick’s response was “absolutely.”

Chris Rolling at the Beacher Report makes a compelling argument for why Tebow won’t get cut. It comes down to this: Belichick likes the idea of a good No. 3 quarterback. Tebow is a QB who’s proven that he can win tough games.

Here’s how Rolling puts it:

“Belichick loves his backups. He loved the skill set that [Matt] Cassel brought to the table and kept him in town as long as he could. That happened to be just long enough to almost guide the team to a playoff berth in Tom Brady’s absence.

Belichick tailored things to Cassel’s particular set of skills when the worst-case scenario happened and that is what he is prepared to do with Tebow on the chance that something happens with him as well.”

In fact, Friday night’s game offered an interesting window on this thesis.

The reason Tebow got so much playing time was that the Pats No. 2 QB Ryan Mallett left the game at the end of the second quarter with a head injury. With Tom Brady tweaking his knee in practice this week, and Mallett leaving early, the idea of the Pats relying on their No. 3 QB suddenly became quite plausible.

Of course, the Patriots with Tebow at QB would run a different offense than the Pats behind either Brady or Mallett. It would have to look at lot like the Denver Broncos read-option offense. That’s what Belichick intimated in an interview with WEEI earlier this week:

“Tim has had a lot of experience making those decisions — whether to give the ball to the back or keep it, or pitch it, all those kinds of things. It’s not really like we’re trying to teach him those things. He’s done it a lot. He has to refine the timing and so forth, but it creates just another thing to put pressure on the defense.”

Has Tim Tebow shown that he’s a passing QB of the caliber of Brady or Mallett? No. But that won’t matter. If the Patriots lose Brady and/or Mallett at some point during this season, Tebow may just give Belichick a viable option for getting the Pats to the playoffs.

How the Alex Rodriguez fiasco could have a happy ending


Alex Rodriguez is no saint, let’s not forget that. But quite frankly, the real criminal in all of this fiasco is Bud Selig, Yes, Bud Selig (or Bud Light) as he is more accurately portrayed. Talk about hypocrisy! Here’s a guy who was unquestionably aware that players such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and the like were taking performance enhancing drugs, and stood by and watched as the home run races unfolded; bringing baseball back to life. He watched, and stood silent, as player after player hit 50, 60 and even 70 home runs; year after year, and said NOTHING and did NOTHING. Yet now, he’s using Alex Rodriguez, the biggest name in the sport, and making an example out of him!

But Selig is a worm. He’s the worst commissioner in the history of sports. The man should be behind bars for his involvement in the ‘steroid era,’ which in my view ruined baseball forever. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Monitor

Harry Bruinius

Amid boos at US Cellular Field in Chicago on Monday night, New York Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez took the field for the first time this year, beginning what may be the final on-field chapter of a tumultuous, storied career.

New Yorkers are gearing up for the drama of yet another dragged-out scandal, but the player who has hit 647 home runs over an astonishing 20-year career now has the slimmest of chances to salvage a moment or two of triumph.

“I just hope that there’s a happy ending there somewhere,” Rodriguez said after Monday’s 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Earlier he described the last seven months as “a nightmare…, probably the worst time of my life.”

Things have not been much better for the Yankees, who sit in fourth place in the American League East, 10 games behind the archrival Boston Red Sox. And therein lies perhaps Rodriguez’s last chance for a silver lining. Facing the prospect of a potentially career-ending 211-game ban at the end of the season, Rodriguez could gain a measure of redemption if he leads the Yankees on an improbable playoff run.

Rodriguez’s pursuit of a happy ending will include a gaggle of lawyers pecking at the details of his involvement with Biogenesis, the Florida clinic that gave performance-enhancing drugs to major league players. And his decision to fight the suspension for his connection to the clinic means that a string of leaks detailing his involvement with the shady underworld of performance-enhancing drugs is likely to follow him until his appeal is heard after the season.

Not to mention all the boos and taunts. On Monday, there was something surreal to seeing Rodriguez on the field, returning from injuries that had kept him out all season, on the exact same day he received largest non-lifetime ban baseball has ever handed down.

Yet the Yankees surely need the embattled slugger, despite a nasty turn their relationship the past few weeks. Their lineup features a less-than-murderous row of hitters, including a meager, American League-low four home runs from their current third basemen.

“What we are going to see, Yankee fans are not going to know how to react,” says Patrick Rishe, a sports economist at Webster University in St. Louis. “They don’t want to support the use of performance enhancing substances – and the image that it teaches children – but also they will look at how Alex Rodriguez might be someone who can help them win ballgames right now, because the Yankees have had a very difficult season in terms of run production, and they have been hit with a plethora of significant injuries to key ball players.”

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, one of Rodriguez’s closest friends, is happy to put up with the boos in exchange for Rodriguez’s bat.

“I would say we need him a lot,” he said. “If you can see, we don’t have [Derek] Jeter right now, and the only guy you have is [Alfonso] Soriano in the lineup, the only righty. Hopefully, he comes back healthy and helps us win some games.”

A strong August and September could help the sputtering Bronx Bombers slip into a wildcard playoff spot.

In the meantime, Rodriguez’s appeal may not be heard until November, according to observers. His case now goes to Fredric Horowitz, the baseball-appointed arbitrator hired by Major League Baseball after the previous arbitrator, Shyam Das, had overturned the 2012 doping suspension of Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun. (Braun last month accepted a 65-game suspension.)

More important to the Yankees than the expected traveling media circus around Rodriguez, perhaps, is the open question of whether he is still an elite – or even above-average – major leaguer.

“If Alex Rodriguez is in the Yankee clubhouse, and he is eligible to play, we have to look at that as a good sign for the Yankees,” says Dr. Rishe. “We can’t predict what the future may hold, so we also have to realize that this is a guy who is coming off his second major hip surgery – he’s still not in midseason form.”

So does Rodriguez even have the skills to play above the level of a middling journeyman? In his first big league game since last October, when he went 0-for-2 in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series to finish an embarrassing 3-for-25 postseason, Rodriguez hit a bloop single in his first at bat, and nearly missed hitting two balls out in his next two plate appearances. His winces were visible – a perfect storyline just missed.

“I know he was disappointed,” says Jim Fannin, a Chicago-based mental-performance coach who worked with Rodriguez from 1996 to 2010, and who spoke to his former client after Monday’s game. “But this is not what he envisioned when we started working together in 1996, that’s for sure.”

“He was more interested in what I thought about how he played, more interested in my evaluation of his performance,” continues Mr. Fannin, who has worked with with 600 clients, including 26 major league all-stars and four Cy Young Award winners. “Obviously, he hasn’t played since last year; he knows I’m an expert at performance, so he wanted me to evaluate his at bats.”

Throughout his career, Fannin says, Rodriguez has been known as a player who prepares maniacally – going back to 1996, when he tore through the league as a skinny 20-year-old in Seattle, coming just short of winning an MVP.

So despite the looming suspension, as well as the challenges of returning from injury, Rodriguez should get a chance to help the Yankees make a late-season run, or perhaps find that happy ending with his performance on the field – as unlikely as that may be.

“The A-Rod I know is a consummate pro,” says Fannin. “He will be the best prepared he can be on the field, he will put in the work to do that, and he’s got one objective: that’s to hit the ball solid with an accelerated bat head, which is the essence of his craft.”

Tour de France 2013: a British win at a French passion


My favorite cycling event in one of my favorite sports did not disappoint. The 100th anniversary of the Tour was awesome. I especially liked the commentary by Chris Froome, which were directed at Lance Armstrong. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Christian Science Monitor

Sara Miller Llana

When Chris Froome pedaled through the streets of Paris tonight, from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, as victor of the 2013 Tour de France, it was in many ways Britain’s moment to celebrate.

It’s the second time a Briton has won the Tour de France in two years. And with Mr. Froome’s clear lead in this year’s Tour lies the prospect that Britain could dominate cycling’s most famous race for many more years to come.

France hoped for more in the 100th edition of the race, after going nearly 30 years without a winner. Instead, the Tour de France, which was begun by a French newspaperman in 1903, has become the essence of globalization: It is broadcast into 190 countries; it’s dominated by American and English riders and fans the world over; and they speak far more English than French these days. Plus, for a race that was a smash based on a simple European – especially French – love of cycling, modern times have seen it overshadowed by international – especially American – doping scandals.

But if the French are missing on the podium tonight, on the streets of Paris Sunday cynicism was scarce. For the 100th race, the riders finished in twilight, with a gorgeous, hazy moon lingering on the horizon, the first night-time finish in the Tour’s history. And from its start in Corsica, through the countryside, valleys, and mountains of this country, it’s been, experienced, as always, as a 100 percent French affair.

“The popularity now is global of course,” says Graeme Fife, author of “Tour de France: the history, the legend, the riders.” “But its evolution since 1903 has really been rooted in the love of French people for the race.”

Despite not having a winner, the French did manage to succeed in pulling off an event that was not dismissed at large by the public, after the exploits of disgraced American rider Lance Armstrong, who admitted this year to doping for each of the seven consecutive years he won the Tour from 1999 to 2005.

At a patch of tonight’s final stage next to the Louvre Museum were not doubts and dismissals but enthusiasm. “Anyone who is able to participate in this race is privileged,” says Guillermo Duran, a Colombian who has lived in France for 22 years but was here tonight to cheer on Nairo Quintana, a Colombian whose team finished second.

Suspicions of doping did, and will continue, to accompany cycling. Froome’s clear physical lead in this year’s Tour raised questions about whether he and is his team were clean. “I just think it’s quite sad that we’re sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life … quite a historic win, talking about doping,” Froome told reporters after a stage win on Mont Ventoux. “Here I am basically being accused of being a cheat and a liar and that’s not cool.”

While it’s the British who are celebrating their superiority in this year’s race, the French, who have not won the Tour since 1985 with Bernard Hinault, had at least one stage to call their own. Rider Christophe Riblon won the L’Alpe d’Huez stage, considered the most iconic, and among the toughest, of the Tour.

“A Frenchman winning on L’Alpe d’Huez is a beautiful recompense for France and for the Tour de France. We, the French, France, our team, didn’t deserve to come out of this Tour de France without a stage victory,” said Mr. Riblon, quoted in the Washington Post.

The Tour de France has always awed the globe for the fortitude of its cyclers, their ability to endure wind, and rain, and – like this year – brutal heat, over some 2,000 miles. For the French, it’s also been about heroism and renewal.

When it began in 1903, France was still reeling from military defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. “They generated the image of [the riders] as heroic, tough … people who could overcome terrible difficulties,” Christopher Thompson, the author of “The Tour de France: A Cultural History” and a professor of French history at Ball State University, told The Christian Science Monitor upon this year’s start.

That held true throughout the first half of the 20th century, each time the race was started up again, after pauses during the world wars. Then they were dubbed tours of “renewal,” says Mr. Fife. And that’s a theme that’s re-emerged over the years in the wake of doping scandals, leaving some fans scoffing, others to abandon the sport altogether, but others coming back to the fold.

It is perhaps in the French countryside that support has barely ebbed, with spectators lining up for hours – picnics in hand – to watch the pack of cyclists speed by. It is the essence of a French summer. In Paris, the race’s international flare is more apparent – with the French vying for a post with the city’s hordes of tourists

But it’s still something the French take pride in. “Today it’s a global event. More English is spoken than French,” says Armand Bouissou, who has watched the race each year since he can remember. “And it’s been marred by the doping scandal. But on the days of the race, that falls into second place.”

“The tour is not just about the cyclists, it’s about all the people who come out to watch,” he says.

Aaron Hernandez charged with murder


Some people are really, really stupid; and then there’s Aaron Hernandez. Wow, to basically throw away one’s entire life… I will never understand what goes through people’s minds just prior to committing murder, especially premeditated, cold-blooded murder which is what this appears to have been. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner, Yahoo Sports

By | Shutdown Corner

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder and five other gun-related charges on Wednesday, as the prosecutor in court said Hernandez orchestrated Odin Lloyd’s “execution.”

Hernandez had been questioned in the killing of Lloyd, an associate of Hernandez who was found dead near Hernandez’s house. Much of the case was laid out in court as the prosecutor asked the judge that Hernandez be held without bail – a request that was granted.

Some of the details are quite brutal:

Hernandez was transported by police to his arraignment at Attleboro District Court and arrived at the courthouse just before 2 p.m. Eastern. He was mostly expressionless as he heard the charges read in the courtroom, and didn’t change expression as he heard the prosecutor outline the case against him. That included the prosecutor saying there was surveillance video of Hernandez with a gun the night Lloyd was shot. The prosecutor asked that Hernandez be held without bail, and despite Hernandez’s lawyer Michael Fee’s argument that Hernandez is not a risk to flee, the judge ordered Hernandez be held without bail.

Multiple reports said Lloyd’s family was in the courtroom for Hernandez’s arraignment.

Lloyd’s body was found on June 17 near Hernandez’s house. Police have investigated in and around Hernandez’s house since then.

The prosecutor offered many details of the case against Hernandez. Hernandez was seen with Lloyd at 2:30 a.m. the morning he was found dead, according to the Boston Globe’s Wesley Lowery, one of the reporters in the courtroom. Hernandez’s phone included texts to Lloyd and two friends the night of the murder. According to Lowery, the prosecutor said police have Hernandez on tape with a firearm saying “you can’t trust anyone anymore” before picking up Lloyd.

The prosecutor said in court that Hernandez is shown on video walking through his house with a gun in his hand, then Hernandez walks to the basement and the surveillance video turns off. There were six-to-eight hours of video missing after that.

On Wednesday morning before 9 a.m., police showed up at Hernandez’s house and put him in handcuffs after he answered the door, then walked him to a police car and took him into custody.

Less than two hours after Hernandez was arrested, the Patriots cut him.

Hit us up on Twitter @YShutdownCorner, email us at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com and “Like” Shutdown Corner on Facebook for NFL conversation 365 days a year, the way it should be.

LeBron James leads Heat to second straight NBA championship with Game 7 victory over Spurs


The Miami Heat did it again; world champions! This was a hard-fought series. San Antonio is a hell of a team and could have just as easily clinched the Title in Game 6. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Yahoo Sports

Johnny Ludden

James 1

MIAMI – Not one, not two… A little more than three years ago, LeBron James stood on that stage here, the smoke swirling about him, and made one of the most audacious declarations the NBA had ever heard. He had just joined with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form the most star-powered triumvirate in the league, and now he was promising the Miami Heat fistfuls of titles.

Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…

Tim Duncan walks off the court while the Heat celebrate. (USA TODAY Sports)James crowed, and he was mocked fast and hard for the boast, for the spectacle of a welcome party the Heat had thrown for him, for his narcissistic “I’m-taking-my-talents-to-South-Beach” cable TV special. He hadn’t won anything yet, of course. He just acted like he had, arriving here full of pompousness and entitlement, well on his way to becoming one of the sporting world’s great villains.

Somewhere in all that braggadocio, James’ point was clear. He hadn’t left his home state of Ohio to come to Miami to win a championship. He was here to build a dynasty, to construct his own legacy as one of the greatest to ever play.

There’s no doubting his championship mettle now. Not after Thursday night. Not after an epic NBA Finals Game 7 performance that included 37 points, 12 rebounds, five 3-pointers and the decisive jump shot that finally helped finish off a 95-88 victory, that finally finished off the San Antonio Spurs. James has his second championship and Finals MVP trophy in as many years, and he won this ring in one of the tensest Finals ever.

Shane Battier made six 3-pointers, the most ever in a Finals Game 7, and Wade scored 23 points, but this victory – this championship – was won on James’ dominance.

“The vision I had when I came here is all coming true,” James said early Friday morning.

James had been swept by this same trio of Spurs’ stars – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – during his first trip to the Finals in 2007. He was with the Cleveland Cavaliers then, and on the eve of these Finals, he said there was no comparison to the present. He proclaimed himself a much better player than he was in ’07 – or even ’11 when his passive performance in the Finals allowed the Dallas Mavericks to beat the Heat.

LeBron James drives against the Spurs.He’s set out to prove himself ever since, and he’s right: He is a much improved player, more immune to the pressure of the moment. Among the other areas in which James is better: He can shoot.

The Spurs dared James to shoot over them for the duration of the series, crowding the lane with another defender when he tried to drive, backing off him when he was isolated. By the second quarter of Game 7, he’d never looked more sure. The Spurs kept backing off, and he kept firing, making five 3-pointers and that critical jumper in the closing seconds.

“LeBron was unbelievable,” Duncan said. “He stepped up in this last game and he made enough shots to make us change our defense over and over again. We just couldn’t find a way to stop him.”

James didn’t win this title alone. Wade has played understudy to James for much of this season, and he did again in Game 7. Still, after limping out of Game 6 after injuring his left knee, he returned Thursday with more life – and lift – in his legs. His 14 first-half points helped buy James some time to find his own shot.

“He just helped us win,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That was the bottom line.”

After six games, the Spurs and Heat had played themselves to exhaustion. Miami’s thrilling overtime victory in Game 6 had drained both teams, and the enormity of Game 7 seemed to leave everyone’s nerves in a jumble. The play was ragged, and neither team could find much rhythm until Battier made three 3-pointers in a short stretch bridging the first two quarters. Battier entered the game stuck in a colossal slump, having made less than 25 percent of his shots in the playoffs. When it mattered most, he found his stroke.

“I believe in basketball gods,” Battier said. “I felt that they owed me big time.”

The Spurs, as they have for so many of these past 16 years, continued to hang around, hang around, hang around. There had been little separation between the teams from game to game, and when Game 7 arrived, there was little distance between them from minute to minute. When Mario Chalmers banked in a pull-up 30-foot 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer, it gave Miami a 72-71 advantage.

The Heat would eventually push their lead to six, but the Spurs didn’t crumble. After Battier made his sixth 3-pointer to send the home crowd into a roar, Duncan quickly quieted the arena by answering with a three-point play. Kawhi Leonard’s 3-pointer brought the Spurs within two, and they had two opportunities to tie, the last coming when Duncan curled into the lane and tossed up his signature jump hook with less than a minute left. The ball caromed off the rim, and Duncan followed the rebound, tipping it back toward the basket. That, too, bounced off.

As the Heat called timeout with 39 seconds left, Duncan leaned over and slapped the court in frustration.

“Probably for me,” Duncan said, “Game 7 is always going to haunt me.”

The Spurs won’t sleep easy, if at all. At 37 years old, Duncan was playing for his fifth – and perhaps final – title. It seemed well within his grasp when the Spurs took a five-point lead into the final 30 seconds of Game 6. In the end, they will remember this series for missed opportunities: missed free throws, missed rebounds and, as Duncan said, his own missed shots at the end of Game 7.

“There’s such a fine line,” Ginobili said. “Such a fine line between celebrating and having a great summer [and] now feeling like crap and just so disappointed.”

The difference in these Finals came down to James, who wouldn’t let this championship slip from his grasp. Clinging to a two-point lead, season on the brink, the Heat walked out of that timeout and gave the ball to James. He dribbled right, stopped, gathered himself and raised up for one of the biggest shots of his career. The arc of the shot’s flight was pure, and as the ball settled into the net with 27.9 seconds left, the Heat had everything they needed for their second straight title and the franchise’s third overall.

Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…

Yes, eight titles is a stretch. James might not even stick around Miami beyond next season. He can opt out of his contract a year from now, and the Cavaliers, among others, figure to call. But who knows? At 28 years old, here in Miami or elsewhere, LeBron James still has so much within his enormous reach.

Tebow rumors hint at the end of an extraordinary career


Tim Tebow is really a whole lot to do about nothing. He sucks as a quarterback. His best position would probably be fullback or tight end, but his hands of brick certainly don’t help him. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Christian Science Monitor

Tebow rumors suggest that the quarterback might not play in the NFL again. To be sure, Tim Tebow is not a top quarterback, but it’s remarkable that no one wants him.

Christian Science MonitorBy Mark Sappenfield | Christian Science Monitor

A report in ESPN The Magazine is suggesting that people close to Tim Tebow are saying that his National Football career is probably over. If the report — and the sentiment — are true, then Tim Tebow could be the first professional football player to lose his job because he was too popular.

Make no mistake, if Tim Tebow’s days in the NFL are done, it is not because of his horrible throwing mechanics. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is not primarily because of them.

As poor as his throwing mechanics are, they did not stop him from compiling an 8-4 record as a starter and leading the Denver Broncos into the second round of the playoffs in 2011.

As poor as his throwing mechanics are, they do not diminish the fact that he is a physical specimen who can run the read option offenses that took the NFL by storm last year.

True, his inability to pass the ball beyond the line of scrimmage with any consistency means that he will probably never be any team’s long-term answer at quarterback. But it seems extraordinary that none of the league’s 31 teams would want to bring on a quarterback with playoff experience and proven leadership qualities solely as a backup or as a change-of-pace option.

Yet extraordinary defines the situation perfectly.

What other backup quarterback without a team could be named Forbes’s most influential athlete, as Tebow was? Normally, the traveling circus that is Tebowmania would be his greatest strength. The NFL, after all, is hardly averse to publicity. Anyone who thinks the Super Bowl is a football game — or even primarily a football game — has never been to Miami in February. It is all spectacle with only dribs and drabs of substance.

Yet even for the most popular sport in America, Tebow is too much. And that is extraordinary.

No coach wants to take on the baggage that is bigger than his own team. The online petitions calling on him to start. The replica jerseys for a man unlikely ever to leave the bench.

Tebow is not blameless in his own situation, of course. If he were a better thrower of the football, someone would be willing to give Tebowmania a shot, surely. Yet he is sitting at home, considering an end to a unique three-year career, because of a situation over which he has no control.

San Francisco wins bid for Super Bowl L


Well, as expected, Super Bowl 50 goes to California. No surprise there… TGO

 Refer to story below. Source: Jason Cole, Yahoo Expert

Field

BOSTON – The San Francisco Bay Area has been awarded Super Bowl L, the NFL announced during league meetings Tuesday. It will be the second time the area has hosted a Super Bowl.

The game is scheduled for February 2016 at the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara. Levi’s Stadium will officially open in 2014 and reportedly is nearing the halfway point in its construction. The stadium is adjacent to the team’s training complex. It is also next to Great America amusement park and across from the Santa Clara Convention Center.

“It’s an awesome, awesome thing that they’ve allowed us to host one of the biggest games; the golden anniversary in the Golden State,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. “We’re just really, really excited.”

Niners CEO Jed York reacts following the announcement of San Francisco’s winning bid. (AP)The last time San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl was January 1985, when the game was played at Stanford Stadium between the 49ers and Miami Dolphins. The 49ers won that game, the second of the team’s five Super Bowl titles.

In addition, Miami came up short in its bid for Super Bowl LI, which was awarded to Houston.

“The vote didn’t really surprise me,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said. “I had hope because it was really a great bid put together and Miami is really a great place. Like I said to the owners, ‘Where would you rather be this time of year but Miami?’ I think most people probably feel that way. But that stadium is definitely the issue.”

Ironically, San Francisco’s bid for Super Bowl L beat South Florida’s hopes for an 11th Super Bowl game. Miami’s bid was hit hard when the Florida legislature refused to move on a possible referendum that would have provided $200 million in public funding as part of roughly $400 million improvements to Sun Life Stadium. The NFL has been pushing the city and team owner Stephen Ross for upgrades since the February 2010 championship in Miami, three years after the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears in the same stadium was hit by rain.

“I really believe the NFL wants to be in Miami, there is no question,” Ross said. “We have had 10 Super Bowls, the 11th would have been a record. Where would you rather be? I definitely think we can get there, but I think it is going to take a real public-private partnership to get there.”

The next two Super Bowls are scheduled to be played in New Jersey next February and in Glendale, Ariz., in 2015.

Woods victorious as Garcia falters at ill-tempered Players


Tiger Woods once again proves why he’s the best golfer on the planet. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: CNN

May 13, 2013 — Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)

Tiger

“It sounds like I was the bad guy here,” Garcia told the PGA Tour’s official website. “I was the victim. I don’t have any regrets of anything.

“That hole has been good to me for the most part,” Garcia said of the 17th after carding a final round of 76.

“Today, it wasn’t. That’s the way it is. That’s the kind of hole it is. You’ve got to love it for what it is.

“It’s always nice to have a chance at beating the No. 1 player in the world, but unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to this week.”

For Woods it was a fourth tournament win of the year, one which moved him onto 78 PGA Tour wins, four off Sam Snead’s record of 82.

“We just go out there and play,” said Woods, who won the Players for the first time in 2001 and took his earnings for 2013 to over $5.8m from just seven tournaments.

“I had an opportunity to win the golf tournament when I was tied for the lead, and I thought I handled the situation well and really played well when I really needed to. And that’s something I’m excited about it.”

Sweden’s David Lingmerth, playing alongside Garcia, missed a birdie putt on the 17th which would have seen him pull level with Woods.

In the end Lingmerth (72) finished 11 under in a three-way tie for second with American duo Kevin Streelman (67) and Jeff Maggert (70).

Garcia was part of a seven-strong group on seven under which also included two-time major winner Rory McIlroy and former world No. 1 Lee Westwood.

Breaking a sports barrier, NBA’s Jason Collins comes out as gay


I understand that what Jason Collins did took guts and why he’s getting all sorts of praise. But I view this entire issue differently… I believe it’s somewhat sad that a human being has to publicly announce his “brand,” as if somehow that validates him or her as a member of our species.

I believe the more we classify individuals the more isolated we become from one another as a people. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Julian Linden | Reuters

By Julian Linden

NBA

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Veteran basketball player Jason Collins announced on Monday that he was gay, smashing through one of the final frontiers in U.S. sports with a frank personal statement and winning warm praise as a groundbreaker.

Collins, a 12-year player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), became the first active athlete from any of the four major U.S. men’s professional sports leagues to come out publicly as gay.

He was quickly enveloped in a wave of support from the White House to tennis player Martina Navratilova, a pioneer for gay athletes in sport.

Collins is not a well-known sports star but is now likely to become famous for his stance. He revealed the secret he had harbored for years in a first-person account published in Sports Illustrated, saying he had gradually become frustrated with having to keep silent on his sexuality.

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center,” his essay began. “I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Collins said he had considered coming out years ago but it was the Boston Marathon bombings this month that convinced him not to wait any more for a perfect moment to come out.

“I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ said Collins, who played last season with the Boston Celtics and then the Washington Wizards and is currently a free agent. “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

Players, administrators and some politicians applauded him for taking a stance. Some hailed it as a landmark day in American civil rights, perhaps as important as when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

President Barack Obama, a big fan of the NBA who regularly plays pickup basketball with his friends, called Collins to express his support, a White House official said.

“I can certainly tell you that here at the White House we view that as another example of the progress that has been made and the evolution that has been taking place in this country, and commend him for his courage, and support him in his – in this effort and hope that his fans and his team support him going forward,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

DEBATE OVER GAY RIGHTS

Collins’ move came at a time of shifting attitudes toward gay rights in the United States, where polls show public opinion is fast moving toward greater acceptance, although a core of social conservatives oppose such change.

Some in sports declined to join the chorus of voices in support of Collins. Sportswriter Chris Broussard, speaking on ESPN television, grouped homosexual acts with adultery and premarital sex, saying he believed this was “walking in open rebellion to God.”

In the coming months, the Supreme Court will rule on whether to strike down parts of a federal law that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. In 2011, the military repealed a ban on openly gay soldiers.

“Jason’s announcement today is an important moment for professional sports and in the history of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community,” former U.S. president Bill Clinton said in a statement.

NBA commissioner David Stern said he was proud of Collins for taking a brave stance.

“Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue,” Stern said.

In a country where it is no longer news for politicians and entertainers to be openly gay, there had been questions over the lack of an openly gay player in the big four men’s professional leagues: the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.

Sports, which helped play a key role in changing public opinion on racial discrimination, had come to seem out of step with much of the rest of American society.

Collins, who has played with six different teams during his 12 years in the NBA, said he never had any grand plans to be the first openly gay player, but events off the basketball court persuaded him to come out.

He was inspired by last year’s gay pride parade in Boston, he said, but delayed making an announcement due to a desire to protect his team, waiting until the end of the regular 2012-2013 season ended. Collins was also prompted by the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings which killed three people and wounded more than 200, he said.

“The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect,” he wrote in Sports Illustrated. “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?

PRAISE FLOODS IN

Kobe Bryant, one of the NBA’s greatest players, was fined $100,000 in 2011 for a homophobic slur. On Monday, he was among the first of dozens of active players who took to social media to applaud Collins.

“Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others,” Bryant tweeted.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash tweeted: “The time has come. Maximum respect.”

There are openly gay players in many top professional leagues in other countries in the world as well as smaller leagues in North America and individual sports.

Navratilova, the tennis star who also became a champion for gay rights, said Collins would feel like a burden had been lifted from him.

“Hey Jason Collins-you are now an activist!!! And trust me, you will sleep a lot better now – freedom is a sweet feeling indeed!,” she tweeted.

Other gay athletes, including former NBA center John Amaechi, had waited until their retirement to divulge their sexuality publicly, but there was a growing sense that times were changing.

Earlier this year, the American soccer player Robbie Rogers outed himself, although he had just retired. And Brittney Griner, one of the country’s top women’s basketball players, said she too was gay.

But there were still no currently playing, openly gay athletes from the four biggest men’s leagues.

The question came into sharp focus this year around the National Football League (NFL), usually viewed as the most macho of America’s pro sports.

In the days leading up to this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans in February, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver told reporters he would not welcome a gay teammate into the locker room.

He later retracted his comments but reports later emerged of NFL teams asking college players about their sexuality at a scouting session in February.

This prompted the New York State attorney general to send a letter to the NFL, urging the league to take action and adopt a formal policy on discrimination over sexual orientation.

High-profile NFL players, most notably Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, began advocating for gay rights, and suggested there were a handful of players ready to come out once someone had taken the first step.

“All of us have huge admiration for what Jason is doing,” said Patrick Burke, co-founder of equal rights advocacy group You Can Play.

“Jason’s courage in stepping forward with his personal story will provide athletes and fans with a new role model.”

(Editing by Frances Kerry and Tim Dobbyn)

NFL-List of number one picks in the NFL Draft


Interesting list of number one picks in the NFL draft. Some of these players have really sucked… TGO

Refer to information below. Source: Reuters

April 25 (Reuters) – List of the top draft picks in the National Football League after the Kansas City Chiefs chose Eric Fisher as the number one choice in the 2013 Draft on Thursday (year, player, position, college, NFL team):

2013 – Eric Fisher, offensive tackle, Central Michigan, Kansas City

2012 – Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford, Indianapolis

2011 – Cam Newton, quarterback, Auburn, Carolina

2010 – Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma, St. Louis

2009 – Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Georgia, Detroit

2008 – Jake Long, offensive tackle, Michigan, Miami

2007 – JaMarcus Russell, quarterback, LSU, Oakland

2006 – Mario Williams, defensive end, N.C. State, Houston

2005 – Alex Smith, quarterback, Utah, San Francisco

2004 – Eli Manning, quarterback, Mississippi, San Diego (traded to NY Giants)

2003 – Carson Palmer, quarterback, USC, Cincinnati

2002 – David Carr, quarterback, Fresno State, Houston

2001 – Michael Vick, quarterback, Virginia Tech, Atlanta

2000 – Courtney Brown, defensive end, Penn State, Cleveland

1999 – Tim Couch, quarterback, Kentucky, Cleveland

1998 – Peyton Manning, quarterback, Tennessee, Indianapolis

1997 – Orlando Pace, offensive tackle, Ohio State, St. Louis

1996 – Keyshawn Johnson, wide receiver, USC, NY Jets

1995 – Ki-Jana Carter, running back, Penn State, Cincinnati

1994 – Dan Wilkinson, defensive tackle, Ohio State, Cincinnati

1993 – Drew Bledsoe, quarterback, Washington State, New England

1992 – Steve Emtman, defensive tackle, Washington, Indianapolis

1991 – Russell Maryland, defensive tackle, Miami, Dallas

1990 – Jeff George, quarterback, Illinois, Indianapolis

1989 – Troy Aikman, quarterback, UCLA, Dallas

1988 – Aundray Bruce, linebacker, Auburn, Atlanta

1987 – Vinny Testaverde, quarterback, Miami, Tampa Bay

1986 – Bo Jackson, running back, Auburn, Tampa Bay (did not sign)

1985 – Bruce Smith, defensive end, Virginia Tech, Buffalo

1984 – Irving Fryar, wide receiver, Nebraska, New England

1983 – John Elway, quarterback, Stanford, Baltimore (traded to Denver)

1982 – Kenneth Sims, defensive tackle, Texas, New England

1981 – George Rogers, running back, S.Carolina, New Orleans

1980 – Billy Sims, running back, Oklahoma, Detroit

1979 – Tom Cousineau, linebacker, Ohio State, Buffalo (did not sign)

1978 – Earl Campbell, running back, Texas, Houston

1977 – Ricky Bell, running back, USC, Tampa Bay

1976 – Lee Roy Selmon, defensive end, Oklahoma, Tampa Bay

1975 – Steve Bartkowski, quarterback, California, Atlanta

1974 – Ed Jones, defensive end, Tennessee State, Dallas

1973 – John Matuszak, defensive end, Tampa, Houston

1972 – Walt Patulski, defensive end, Notre Dame, Buffalo\

1971 – Jim Plunkett, quarterback, Stanford, New England

1970 – Terry Bradshaw, quarterback, Louisiana Tech, Pittsburgh

1969 – O.J. Simpson, running back, USC, Buffalo

1968 – Ron Yary, tackle, USC, Minnesota

1967 – Bubba Smith, defensive tackle, Michigan State, Baltimore

(Compiled by Larry Fine,)

Tiger and Lefty once again Masters favorites


Hopefully Tiger Woods will win the Masters this year. He’s long overdue for another Major championship. But should he have a bad event, Phil Mickelson would be my next choice. Actually, I would be happy with either one winning. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Mark Lamport-Stokes | Reuters

Tiger

(Reuters) – If Masters success was guaranteed by early season form and a high comfort factor at Augusta National, then look no further than Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for likely champions next week in the year’s opening major.

The two Americans have produced hugely impressive, winning golf on the 2013 PGA Tour and, just like Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal before them, simply driving up Augusta National’s fabled Magnolia Lane puts them in a triumphant frame of mind.

Short game wizardry and the ability to minimize three-putts is a must for any would-be Masters champion at a venue renowned for its lightning-fast, heavily contoured greens.

Olazabal, a two-time winner during the 1990s, was one of golf’s best in this department while Woods and Mickelson, who have earned seven green jackets between them, are both geniuses on and around the green.

“Generally the guys that have won here have really putted well, avoided three-putts and have made the big putt from 10 feet or so for par,” said Woods, a four-time champion who reclaimed the world number one ranking with a victory at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. “Those are huge around here.

“No matter what you do, you’re going to have those kinds of putts, and you’re going to have to bury them.

“Those putts are going to be tricky. Some are going to be really quick and break. And other ones, you’re going to have to be pretty aggressive. There’s so much slope out here.”

Woods signaled he is likely to be among the front-runners for the year’s first major by winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January and last month’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral and Arnold Palmer Invitational in vintage ‘Tiger’ style.

He triumphed by four shots at Torrey Pines and by two at Doral and Bay Hill, on each occasion evoking memories of his glory days in the late 1990s and early 2000s with his all-round game.

“To be able to bring it out a couple times so far this year, and then able to close and get the Ws on top of that, that’s nice,” Woods said after claiming his fifth PGA Tour title in his last 19 events.

“Any time I can win prior to Augusta, it always feels good. I’ve been able to do it a few times throughout my career, which is nice. I’m excited about this year.”

MASTERS MARKER

Mickelson, who has often scorched the back nine at Augusta with his power game and magical touch around the greens, laid down his marker for the Masters with a scintillating victory at the Phoenix Open in February.

The left-hander birdied three of the last six holes at the TPC Scottsdale to complete a wire-to-wire win, finishing just two strokes shy of the PGA Tour low for 72 holes with a 28-under total of 256.

“It’s important to start building momentum,” Mickelson, who has made a career habit of winning in the first four months of the PGA Tour season, said of his buildup.

“Certainly having been in contention and being able to come out on top is an important element going into the Masters if you want to do well because you’ve got to deal with some of the greatest pressure you will ever feel at the Masters.”

However, the list of potential champions is a long one, as demonstrated by the ‘unlikely’ victories of Canada’s Mike Weir in 2003, American Zach Johnson in 2007 and South African Trevor Immelman in 2008.

The strength in depth of the modern game is unparalleled in the history of golf and virtually any player in the field, with a few venerable exceptions, is capable of winning with a hot hand for all four rounds.

Twice major winner Rory McIlroy, the world number two, will be eager to atone for his nightmarish final-round meltdown in 2011 when he squandered a four-shot overnight lead with a closing 80.

The Northern Irishman, one of the most popular and engaging figures in the game, will also be champing at the bit to prove that his relatively poor form earlier this season, following his switch in club manufacturers, was simply a temporary phase.

Former world number ones Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, along with their fellow Englishmen Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, will each be chasing a first major title, as will Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day, joint runners-up two years ago.

Veterans such as Steve Stricker and Ernie Els, established PGA Tour winners like Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar, plus a host of younger guns led by American Rickie Fowler and Italy’s Matteo Manassero, are all capable of flourishing.

And you most certainly cannot rule out a repeat win by American left-hander Bubba Watson, who beat South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff last year after conjuring a miraculous shot from pine straw as he hooked a wedge 40 yards through the air for his ball to settle 10 feet from the pin.

“I got in these trees, hit a crazy shot that I saw in my head and somehow I’m here talking to you with a green jacket on,” Watson said after joining fellow left-handers Mickelson (2004, 2006 and 2010) and Weir as Masters winners.

“I never got this far in my dreams. It’s a blessing.”

The 77th Masters will be played from April 11-14.

(Editing by Julian Linden)

Source: QB Kolb agrees to 2-year deal with Bills


There’s a reason why teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and others consistently suck year in and year out… That reason is that ownership is clueless in terms of the coaches they hire, but more importantly the players they acquire.

Now the Buffalo Bills have signed Kevin Kolb – woop-dee-doo! I’m sure this guy is going to turn the team around and make them Super Bowl contenders… The Bills release one inconsistent QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, only to pick up his clone. How stupid can these people be? TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By JOHN WAWROW (AP Sports Writer) | The Associated Press – Sun, Mar 31, 2013 12:06 AM EDT

Kolb

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Kevin Kolb is getting another chance at a fresh start, this time with the quarterback-needy Buffalo Bills.

A person familiar with negotiations said the free-agent sixth-year player agreed to a two-year contract potentially worth over $12 million with Buffalo on Saturday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Bills haven’t announced the move.

Several media outlets, including ESPN.com and The Buffalo News, first reported the agreement.

Kolb spent the past two seasons in Arizona, where injuries hampered his opportunity to prove himself as a starter. The Cardinals were left with little choice but to release Kolb on March 15 in a move that came before they were set to pay the player a $2 million roster bonus and saved the team about $7 million in salary cap space.

The Bills are in no position to be choosy with few quarterbacks available in free agency, and questions regarding the crop of prospects available in the NFL draft next month.

Buffalo was down to one experienced quarterback on its roster – Tarvaris Jackson – after releasing returning starter Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this month.

General manager Buddy Nix has also expressed an intention to select a quarterback high in the draft next month. Questions remain whether they’ll do so with their first-pick, eighth overall.

The Bills have been busy scouting nearly every quarterback prospect this offseason.

They’ve held private workouts with West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Assistant GM Doug Whaley also attended Southern California’s pro day this past week, where Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley threw for the first time since hurting his shoulder in November.

The Bills are once again in rebuilding mode under rookie coach Doug Marrone, who took over in January after Chan Gailey was fired following three losing seasons. Marrone is an offensive specialist, who spent the past four seasons reviving a struggling football program at Syracuse.

Kolb was being counted on by the Cardinals to become their franchise quarterback by acquiring him in a trade with Philadelphia in the summer of 2011. They then signed Kolb to a five-year, $63 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.

Kolb, however, got off to a 1-6 start and had trouble adapting to coach Ken Whisenhunt’s offense. He then hurt his toe and was eventually sidelined for the rest of the season because of a concussion.

Last season, Kolb helped the Cardinals get off to a 4-0 start before being sidelined for the rest of the season with torn rib cartilage.

Kolb has struggled with consistency. He has completed 59.5 percent of his passes, while throwing 28 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in 34 career games.

Woods back on top in golf


When Tiger Woods is on there is no one who can beat him. He just might be the most dominant athlete in the history of sport. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By DOUG FERGUSON (AP Golf Writer) | The Associated Press 

Tiger

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The moment was vintage Tiger Woods, and so was his reaction.

Seconds after Rickie Fowler made a 40-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole to pull within two shots of the lead, Woods posed over his 25-foot birdie putt until he swept the putter upward in his left hand and marched toward the cup as it dropped for a birdie.

Fowler, standing on the edge of the green, turned with a slight smile as if to say, ”What else can I do?”

Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Monday and returned to No. 1 in the world for the first time since October 2010, the longest spell of his career. After all that time, after so much turmoil with his personal life and his health, Woods looks as good as ever.

Maybe better.

”It’s a byproduct of hard work, patience and getting back to winning golf tournaments,” Woods said.

He essentially wrapped up his eighth title at Bay Hill with an 8-iron out of a fairway bunker on the par-5 16th that easily cleared the water and landed safely on the green for a two-putt birdie. Woods dangled his tongue out of his mouth as the ball was in the air, another sign of his swagger.

Just like his other two wins this year, Woods never let anyone get closer than two shots in the final round. With a conservative bogey he could afford on the final hole, he closed with a 2-under 70 for a two-shot win over Justin Rose.

Woods walked off the 18th green waving his putter over his head – truly a magic wand at Bay Hill – to acknowledge the fans who have seen this act before. His eighth win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational tied a PGA Tour record that had not been touched in 48 years.

This win had extra significance. He’s back to No. 1.

”If I get healthy, I know I can play this game at a high level,” Woods said. ”I know I can be where I’m contending in every event, contending in major championships and being consistent day in and day out – if I got healthy. That was the first step in the process. Once I got there, then my game turned.”

A year ago, he came to Bay Hill without having won in more than 2 1/2 years. He left this year having won six times in his last 20 starts on the PGA Tour.

Next up is the Masters, where Woods will try to end his five-year drought in the majors.

”I’m really excited about the rest of this year,” Woods said.

Woods fell as low as No. 58 in the world as he coped with the collapse of his marriage, a loss of sponsors and injuries to his left leg. One week after he announced he was dating Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn, Woods returned to the top of golf.

”Number 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!” Vonn tweeted moments after his win.

Asked if there was any correlation to his winning right after going public with his relationship, Woods smiled and said, ”You’re reading way too much into this.”

Like so many other victories, this one was never really close.

Fowler pulled to within two shots with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, but after he and Woods made bogey on the 15th, Fowler went at the flag on the par-5 16th and came up a few yards short and into the water. Fowler put another ball into the water and made triple bogey.

”I was swinging it well.  I made a few putts, and trying to put a little pressure on them, let them know I was there,” Fowler said. ”Just would like to have that 7-iron back on 16. Just kind of a touch heavy.”

Woods played it safe on the 18th, and nearly holed a 75-foot par putt that even drew a big smile from the tournament host.

Woods tied the tour record of eight wins in a single tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times from 1938 to 1965 at two golf courses. Woods tied his record for most wins at a single golf course, having also won eight times at Torrey Pines, including a U.S. Open.

”I don’t really see anybody touching it for a long time,” Palmer said while Woods made his way up the 18th fairway. ”I had the opportunity to win a tournament five times, and I knew how difficult that was.”

Rose, who played the first two rounds with Woods, closed with a 70 to finish alone in second.

He pulled to within two shots of Woods with a birdie on the 16th. Woods was in the group behind him in the fairway bunker on the par 5, and hit 8-iron over the water and onto the middle of the green for a two-putt birdie to restore his margin.

”He plays every shot like he plays them on Sunday,” Rose said. ”His intensity is the same on Thursday often as it is on Sunday, and that makes Sunday a lot less different for him. He plays in that kind of atmosphere far more regularly than a lot of guys do, and it’s an adjustment for most of us. It’s a known for him.”

Fowler had to settle for a 73 and a tie for third with Mark Wilson (71), Keegan Bradley (71) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (72).

Rory McIlroy had been No. 1 since he won the PGA Championship last August. He can reclaim the No. 1 ranking by winning the Houston Open this week. Woods heads home to south Florida for two weeks before the Masters.

Asked the last time he felt this good going to Augusta National, Woods replied, ”It’s been a few years.”

This was the fourth time in his career that he already had three PGA Tour wins before the Masters – he didn’t win a green jacket in any of the previous years (2000, 2003 and 2008). More telling, perhaps, is that Woods has won back-to-back starts for the first time since the Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational in August 2009.

”I think it shows that my game is consistent,” he said. ”It’s at a high level.”

Woods finished at 13-under 275 and won for the 77th time on the PGA Tour, moving to within five of Snead’s record.

Fowler, his first time playing with Woods in the final group, opened with eight pars when he needed to be making up ground. And when he finally had a few openings on the back nine, Woods refused to let him through.

Woods salvaged a two-putt par with a 7-footer on the 11th hole to keep a three-shot lead. On the next hole, Fowler looked to gain some momentum when he made a 40-foot birdie putt only for Woods to match him with that 25-foot birdie.

Woods produced some absurd statistics with the putter this week, making 19 of 28 putts from between 7 feet and 20 feet.

He walked off the green to share a handshake with Palmer, along with a big smile and some words that Woods said were best kept private. He left the course in that familiar blue blazer that goes to the winner.

And he left as the No. 1 player in the world.

It’s the 11th time that Woods has gone back to No. 1, tied with Greg Norman since the ranking began in 1986. Still to be determined is how long Woods stays there this time.

Woods gets second win of year with triumph at Doral


He’s baaaaack… Not a good sign for the rest of the field. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Simon Evans | Reuters

Tiger 1

MIAMI (Reuters) – Tiger Woods won his second tournament of the year in convincing fashion with a two-stroke victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, closing with a one-under-par 71 in the final round on Sunday.

World number two Woods finished with a 19-under-par total for the tournament, with fellow-American Steve Stricker runner-up on 271 after shooting 68 on Sunday.

Stricker had given his rival a 45-minute putting session on Wednesday and Woods, who needed just 100 putts in the four rounds, was quick to acknowledge the role his closest challenger had played in his week.

“I played well, thank you Steve for the putting lesson. I felt good about how I was playing, I made some putts and got rolling,” he said.

Phil Mickelson, Australian Adam Scott, Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell were tied for third, five strokes behind Woods.

Scott shot the best round of the day and the tournament with a bogey-free eight-under-par 64 on Sunday.

Woods had claimed his first win of the year at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and continued his excellent record in World Golf Championship (WGC) events with a 17th triumph.

The victory was his seventh in this tournament in 13 starts. Woods’s fourth career win at Doral marked his fifth U.S. tour win in his last 19 events.

McDowell, playing with Woods, created some early pressure with birdies on the first two holes but he lost momentum with a bogey at the fifth and his challenge faded with another on the par-four 11th.

Woods, who went into the final round with a four-stroke lead, never looked in danger of losing his grip on the top of the leaderboard and a wobble at the end, with bogeys on the 16th and 18th, was only a minor blemish on what has been an excellent week for the 14-times major winner.

World number one Rory McIlroy ended a week of working on his swing troubles with a confidence boosting 65, which moved him into a tie for eighth place nine strokes off the pace.

(Reporting By Simon Evans, Editing by Larry Fine)

Tiger says McIlroy should choose words more carefully


The golfing world was ready to anoint Rory McIlroy as the next superstar. Unfortunately, in golf it isn’t that easy to sustain a high level of performance. This is what makes Tiger Woods’ run all the more impressive. By the way, there is no doubt in my mind that Tiger will be back; he will regain his old form and with it his domination of the sport. It’s just a matter of time… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Simon Evans | Reuters

Tiger

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida (Reuters) – Tiger Woods, who has endured his share of controversy and media scrutiny, said world number one Rory McIlroy should choose his words more carefully after withdrawing from the Honda Classic with what was initially a mysterious explanation.

Before driving away from the PGA National course on Friday after a nightmare start to his round, McIlroy told reporters: “I’m not in a great place mentally. I can’t really say much, guys. I’m just in a bad place mentally.”

Later, in a statement, the 23-yerar-old Northern Irishman said he was having pain with a wisdom tooth and that he was unable to concentrate.

Former world number one and 14-times major winner Woods was asked after his second consecutive even-par 70, whether he had talked to McIlroy about handling the media focus.

“He’s just got to be more ‑‑ just got to think about it a little bit more before you say something or do something,” said Woods. “It can get out of hand, especially when you get into social media and start tweeting and all those different things that can go wrong.”

Woods has seen both sides of the media, having been elevated to superstar status during his glory years and then watching his marriage fall apart in the public eye after a series of affairs came to light.

He has also had to deal with constant questioning of his ability to get back to his best, changes of coach, re-worked swing and injuries that led him to withdraw from tournaments.

Woods is 14 years McIlroy’s senior and says the media is a very different beast to when he first become world number one and was the center of attention.

“I’ve been through it for a long time. But also this is a slightly different era, as well. It’s even faster than what it was when I came out,” said Woods. “Things are instantaneous around the world. We were still in fax machines, things were a little bit slower.”

With his disappointing early season form, the focus on McIlroy will quickly refocus to his recent change to Nike clubs and his self-confessed swing troubles.

Woods managed to refrain from firing back at his critics throughout his difficulties in making a transition and said he did so because he knew that many of those commenting on his game were lacking the right knowledge.

“That’s just because people don’t understand. Most of the people that are commentating or analyzing don’t understand the game of golf, so I didn’t have a problem with it,” said Woods.

“They don’t see it. They don’t see the range sessions and they don’t see the practice at home. Plus, they generally don’t understand the game, especially at this level.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Question marks for Faldo over McIlroy, Woods


Interesting perspective… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Mark Lamport-Stokes | Reuters – Tue, Feb 19, 2013

Rory

MARANA, Arizona (Reuters) – Golf fans are eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the growing rivalry between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods but former world number one Nick Faldo has doubts on either player achieving his best this year.

Faldo said McIlroy made a “dangerous move” in changing his club manufacturer earlier this season while he believes 14-times major winner Woods can never return to golfing dominance without regaining a “go-to shot” to use in pressure situations.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, who won his second major title by a record eight shots at the PGA Championship in August, switched his club brand last month from Titleist to Nike in a lucrative deal reported to be worth as much as $250 million over 10 years.

“Rory went from rookie of the year to world number one with the same equipment and now he’s changed absolutely everything which I know, from personal grief, is dangerous,” six-times major champion Faldo told Reuters.

“Once I heard the news, I tweeted it was a dangerous move. It’s risky because it’s all about the feel and sound of the golf ball, it’s the feel and sound of the putter face, it’s the feel and sound and the torque of a driver.”

Faldo, a three-times British Open champion who now works as the lead golf analyst on television for CBS Sports and Golf Channel, said that even very similar brands of golf clubs would feel very different to a player who had switched manufacturers.

“Factually yes, you can get really, really close but feel-wise, sound-wise, no, not even close,” the 53-year-old old added while shaking his head. “You get a millisecond at impact and you’ve known exactly how that sounded and reacted before.

“People say, ‘Oh, Rory can adapt,’ but why should he be adapting at this time in his career? He might just waltz through and it’s all fine. Or you may even say, ‘Hey, whatever his goals were before, he may have made them a little more difficult.’

“Feel is confidence in this game. That’s your feedback and that’s your trust. As Rory found out pretty quickly, he announces there are 14 new clubs in his bag and after one round of golf the putter’s out, because it’s different.”

McIlroy made an inauspicious start in his first event with Nike equipment, missing the cut at the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship last month when he ditched his new putter after struggling with it in the opening round.

The world number one has since taken a four-week break from competitive golf and returns to action in Wednesday’s opening round of the WGC-Accenture World Match Championship at Dove Mountain where Woods, a three-times winner, is also competing.

CHAMPION’S MAKE-UP

Faldo, who was renowned for his work ethic and shrewd course management during his prime, pinpointed self-confidence as perhaps the crucial component in a champion golfer’s make-up.

“You’ve got to have real self-belief,” said the Englishman who was arguably one of the most driven players ever in his quest to reach the very top of the game.

“Whatever shot you’re trying to pull off, you’ve got to have the belief it’s going to work. And if it doesn’t … it’ll start sewing those little seeds of doubt in your mind and those seeds grow and they can end up as oak trees in your head.”

Woods used to intimidate his rivals with his dominant golf and immense self-belief but all that changed for Faldo after the American’s spectacular fall from grace at the end of 2009 amid revelations about his extra-marital affairs.

“It’s more than three years since the crash-and-burn in his personal life and I personally think he has a lot to deal with there, right from when it all happened,” Faldo said.

“In golf, you have to be completely engrossed and free just to go out and practice 100 percent. There’s nothing worse if you then get distracted for good reasons or bad reasons.

“If somebody is in your ear or you are worried about something … it’s much harder to have that peace of mind.”

Woods clinched his 75th PGA Tour title by four shots in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last month but he dropped four strokes in his last five holes in blustery conditions mainly due to wayward driving.

“When he’s on (form), he’s fabulous … but there are certain shots on the golf course he’s struggling with and he showed us at Torrey he’s still struggling with them,” said Faldo.

“I don’t think he has yet what we call a ‘go-to shot’ and you’ve got to have that one when literally, if someone puts a gun to your head and says, ‘Right, hit me a fade,’ you can aim down the left edge of the fairway and it peals back.

“If he really sorts that out, he could be unbeatable but that (doubt) may be starting to engrain itself in him.”

Woods has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and his burning desire to eclipse the record 18 piled up by Jack Nicklaus, in Faldo’s view, will never be fulfilled.

“You can’t say it’s impossible but I am leaning towards no,” said Faldo, whose own work ethic came straight out of the Ben Hogan manual.

“I don’t think it will happen. Getting five more (majors), that’s more than a really, really fantastic career (for most players).

“It’s a big climb after how he has shaken himself up mentally. The biggest thing is how Tiger must look at himself in the mirror and wonder what happened. It’s a lot to deal with.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

What time is the Super Bowl?: Answers to your questions about the big game


Finally, Super Bowl Sunday is here! TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner

By Kevin Kaduk | Shutdown Corner

Super Bowl

After two weeks of hype, Super Bowl XLVII is almost here. The San Francisco 49ers will be looking for a record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship while the Baltimore Ravens will be looking to send Ray Lewis into retirement with the second title in franchise history.

Here’s what you need to know to watch the big game:

Super Bowl XLVII — Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers

Game time: Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 6:30 pm ET/3:30 PT.

Location: Superdome, New Orleans, La.

Line: San Francisco -3.5 points, over/under 47.5

Where to watch/listen: The Super Bowl will be televised on CBS (check your local listings) and will be streamed live on Yahoo! Sports with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms handling the broadcasting duties. Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason will broadcast the game on radio for Dial Global (check your local listings) and on Sirius XM channel 88. Univision Radio will broadcast the game in Spanish.

Pregame show: CBS will feature 7 1/2 hours of pregame coverage starting with “Road To The Super Bowl” at 11 a.m. ET. Highlights include a Scott Pelley interview with President Barack Obama. The NFL Network will also feature a live pregame show from New Orleans starting at 9 a.m. ET and will include former quarterback Brett Favre in his first broadcasting venture.

National anthem: Alicia Keys

Halftime show: Beyonce

Don’t miss a thing from New Orleans! Follow @YShutdownCorner, and the Shutdown Corner Facebook page!

Robert Griffin III suffered a torn LCL, possible torn ACL, could be in for lengthy rehabilitation


I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that RG III is going to last very long in the NFL. And for whatever it’s worth (in case my friends read this) I also don’t believe that he’ll ever be as good as Michael Vick. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner

By | Shutdown Corner

RGIII

The knee injury suffered — and re-suffered — by Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III against the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday afternoon’s wild-card loss could very well be serious enough to keep the star player out for a significant period of time.

As reported by the Washington Post, Griffin was diagnosed by Dr. James Andrews with a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. There is also believed to be damage to Griffin’s anterior cruciate ligament, but that will not be determined until Dr. Andrews performs the surgery on Griffin’s LCL. That procedure is expected to take place in the next few days. Andrews would then determine if ACL surgery will be necessary.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has been heavily criticized for his handling of Griffin’s knee injury, which first happened in a Week 14 overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens. Griffin returned for the last two games of the regular season and the wild-card game against Seattle, but he was clearly impacted by the knee injury. In the first quarter of the Seahawks game, Griffin’s knee buckled in the turf at FedEx Field, and from that point through the fourth quarter, the injury certainly seemed even worse — Griffin could barely run and could not consistently plant on his back foot to throw. When Griffin’s knee took another bad turn late in the fourth quarter, Shanahan finally took Griffin off the field and replaced him with Kirk Cousins.

James C. Dreese, a doctor for the University of Maryland athletic teams who is not affiliated with the Redskins, told the Post that the recovery for an LCL surgery generally takes longer than one for an ACL injury.

“When the collateral ligaments are involved,” Dreese said, “the concern in the long term is that controlling the rotational component of the knee can be more difficult.”

The controversy surrounding Shanahan’s handling began in earnest when Andrews told Robert Klemko of USA Today Sports that he disputed the coach’s account about Griffin’s readiness to re-enter the Baltimore game. Andrews later backed Shanahan’s story in a conversation with the Post.

“Coach Shanahan didn’t lie about it, and I didn’t lie,” Andrews said on Monday. “I didn’t get to examine [Griffin’s knee] because he came out for one play, didn’t let us look at him and on the next play, he ran through all the players and back out onto the field. Coach Shanahan looks at me like, ‘Is he OK?’ and I give him the ‘Hi’ sign as in, ‘He’s running around, so I guess he’s OK.’ But I didn’t get to check him out until after the game. It was just a communication problem. Heat of battle. I didn’t get to tell him I didn’t get to examine the knee. Mike Shanahan would never have put him out there at risk just to win a game.”

Andrews was already famous for his ability to help athletes recover from knee injuries. But when he operated on the knee of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in December 2011 after Peterson tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, and Peterson returned in 2012 to rush for over 2,000 yards and fall just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record for rushing yardage, Andrews’ prowess — and the technology allowing players to return from serious knee injuries — was seen to be in a different dimension.

“He has defied all odds,” Andrews told the Pioneer Press of Peterson last week. “Somebody asked me about him a bunch of different times with all he’s been able to accomplish. My pat answer is, ‘If you operate on the right athlete, it makes you look pretty darn good as a physician.’ Adrian was that genetic athlete who could do what he’s done. There are a few I’ve treated. One of them was Bo Jackson. Bo was a natural athlete. He didn’t have to lift weights growing up. Adrian Peterson is like that. I was a nervous wreck watching him play game after game this season. I was on the Washington Redskins’ sideline when the Vikings played them, and every time he’d get tackled I’d shudder.”

Now, we can but wait and see if Griffin can defy those odds.

“What you can see on that video is that it looks like the knee failed in both the hinge mechanism and the rotational mechanism,” Dreese said of Griffin’s injury. “That would suggest an ACL injury, but the MRI will be definitive.”

Griffin tore his right ACL while at Baylor in 2009 and had it surgically repaired. He played in 2010 and 2011 with no evident residual effects.

Redskins beat Cowboys 28-18 to win NFC East


Once again the Cowboys, and especially Tony Romo, lay an egg in the playoffs. Yet another year wasted. With all the talent they have in the skill positions, and they can’t seem to win a playoff game, let alone a conference championship or Super Bowl.

It’s time to clean house; Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan must go! And yes, maybe even Tony Romo… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By JOSEPH WHITE (AP Sports Writer) | The Associated Press

MorrisLANDOVER, Md. (AP) — ”R-G-3!” was all Redskins fans needed to chant when they wanted to express their love for Robert Griffin III. For the lesser-known rookie, they opted for his whole name: ”Alf-red Mor-ris!”

It’s a new generation that has Washington atop the NFC East for the first time this millennium. There’s Griffin – the vocal leader, the first-round draft pick, the Heisman Trophy winner, the team captain. And there’s Morris – the out-of-nowhere sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic who merely ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the division-clincher and broke the franchise single-season rushing record.

”These,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, ”aren’t ordinary rookies.”

The Redskins claimed their first division title since 1999, beating the archrival Dallas Cowboys 28-18 Sunday night in a winner-take-all finale to end the NFL’s regular season.

”I was 9 years old in 1999,” said Griffin, sporting a black baseball cap commemorating the title. ”So I stand before you at 22, and the Redskins are the NFC East champions. To me, talking to Alfred after the game, it’s the first time the Redskins have been champs since ’99 and we came in and we did it in one year. The sky’s the limit for this team.”

Griffin, gradually regaining his explosiveness after spraining his right knee four weeks ago, ran for 63 yards and a touchdown for the Redskins (10-6), who finished with seven straight wins after their bye week. They became the first NFL team to rally from 3-6 and make the playoffs since the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.

With the running game working so well, Griffin didn’t have to throw much. He completed nine of 18 passes for 100 yards.

Washington will host Seattle next Sunday, the Redskins’ third consecutive playoff game against the Seahawks. They lost at Seattle as a wild-card team in the 2005 and 2007 seasons.

”I’ve been here for the 4-12, the bad times, almost being the joke of the NFL,” veteran defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. ”But to do this with this group of guys – the old and the new – it’s good to be here.”

Certainly, Sunday night was mostly about the new. Morris had touchdown runs of 1, 17 and 32 yards and was so dominant that the Cowboys – missing their five best run defenders due to injuries – fell hook, line and sinker nearly every time the Redskins faked the ball to him. He finished with 1,613 yards for the year, topping Clinton Portis’ 1,516 in 2005.

”I’ll tell you what: Alfred Morris became a star tonight,” Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said. ”He deserved it. He’s a phenomenal football player.”

To which Morris answered: ”I’m never a star. I’ll never be a star. Other people might think I’m a star, but I’m just Alfred.”

He won’t have much choice if he keeps this up. On the Redskins’ go-ahead drive in the third quarter, six plays were runs by Morris and the other three involved fakes to him. The touchdown came when Griffin faked to Morris – one of several times linebacker DeMarcus Ware was totally fooled by deception in the backfield – and ran 10 yards around left end to put Washington ahead 14-7.

The Cowboys (8-8), meanwhile, will miss the playoffs for the third straight season, having stumbled in a make-or-break end-of-regular-season game for the third time in five years.

Tony Romo threw three interceptions – matching his total from the last eight games combined. A poor throw was picked by Rob Jackson when the Cowboys had a chance to drive for a winning score in the final minutes.

”I feel as though I let our team down,” Romo said.

Romo completed 20 of 31 passes for 218 yards, and his career is now further tainted by post-Christmas disappointments, including Week 17 losses to the Philadelphia Eagles (44-6) in 2008 and the New York Giants (31-14) last year. He’s also 1-3 in playoff games.

”Your legacy will be written when you’re done playing the game,” Romo said. ”And when it’s over with, you’ll look back. … It’s disappointing not being able to get over that hump.”

The Cowboys played catch-up after Morris’ 32-yard scamper gave the Redskins a 21-10 cushion with 10:32 to play, pulling within three on a 10-yard pass to Kevin Ogletree and a 2-point conversion with 5:50 left. But Morris’ third touchdown sealed the win with 1:09 remaining.

The Cowboys also dealt with in-game injuries to receivers Miles Austin (left ankle), Dez Bryant (back) and Dwayne Harris (lower leg). Bryant, who had a torrid second half of the season despite breaking his left index finger, had four catches for 71 yards.

Washington’s slow start this season prompted coach Mike Shanahan to dismiss playoff hopes and declare the remaining seven games would determine which players would be on his team ”for years to come.”

Griffin and his teammates had other plans, and the coach quickly changed his tune. Now the Redskins will be playing in January.

”All odds were against us,” Morris said. ”But we believed in each other.”

Notes: Griffin set two more NFL rookie records. His 102.4 passer rating topped Ben Roethlisberger’s 98.1 in 2004, and his 1.3 percentage of passes intercepted is better than Charlie Batch’s 1.98 in 1998. Griffin had already set the league mark for rushing yards by a rookie QB (815). … The Redskins also set a franchise record for fewest turnovers in a season with 14, fewer even than the 1982 team that played only nine regular-season games because of a players strike.

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Jets’ Tebow insists he never asked out of wildcat


The New York Jets are the laughing-stock of the NFL. What an inept team, top to bottom. Forgetting about the owner and general manager for now, the people on the field, particularly Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano (looking stupid on the sidelines with sunglasses at night) are an embarrassment to the sport. Bringing in Tim Tebow, who has absolutely no talent in terms of quarterbacking, was the final nail on the coffin. 

Ryan and Sparano, Sanchez and Tebow; they all suck the BIG one! This team needs to be completely revamped – top to bottom. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. (AP Sports Writer) | The Associated Press

Tim

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Tim Tebow has been criticized for years about his quarterback skills, his arm and how he throws.

He refuses to accept anyone calling him a quitter or phony.

The New York Jets backup quarterback insisted Wednesday that he didn’t ask out of running the team’s wildcat plays last week, but acknowledged what he said in a meeting with coach Rex Ryan might have been misinterpreted as such.

”I never said, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do anything or I won’t do anything,”’ Tebow said. ”That wasn’t the talk at all. He knows that, and everybody on this team knows that. I’d never not do something if I was asked, and I think that’s what’s disappointing about the whole situation, people saying, ‘You quit,’ or, ‘You didn’t do this.’ It was not it at all.

”It was just me asking to get an opportunity to play the position I love, which is quarterback. It wasn’t me asking out of anything.”

Last Tuesday, Ryan chose to go with third-stringer Greg McElroy over Tebow in place of the benched Mark Sanchez for Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers. After hearing the news, Tebow went to Ryan to discuss the situation and told him he wanted to be ”a regular quarterback.”

”I was definitely disappointed and frustrated,” Tebow said.

ESPN New York first reported Sunday that Tebow had then asked out of the wildcat, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that to The Associated Press. But Tebow thinks it was a situation in which he wishes he was ”more clear” when he initially spoke with Ryan.

Tebow realized that Ryan might have misinterpreted what he said when they met when he wasn’t in wildcat packages during practice Wednesday and Thursday, and then sat down with the coach last Friday to clear the air.

”I just asked for an opportunity to play quarterback and he definitely understood that,” Tebow said, ”and then Friday, I went up to him again and reiterated that, ‘Hey, I’ll do anything for this team like I have all year.”’

While Ryan never confirmed or denied the reports, the coach said, ”If I would have asked Tim to play in anything, Tim would have gone into the game and done that.”

Tebow never played in the Jets’ 27-17 loss to the Chargers, as wide receiver Jeremy Kerley handled the majority of snaps in the wildcat package.

More than anything else, Tebow said, he’s most disappointed by the attacks on his character and reputation during the last few days – adding that his Christmas ”wasn’t the best” because of all the talk about how he let his team down.

”When people talk about how you play football and how much, that’s one thing,” Tebow said. ”That really doesn’t bother me. I think the only thing that’s been disappointing these last few days and frustrating is people saying, ‘Oh, you quit on your team or you’re not a good teammate.’

”For people to not know the situation and then start to bash your character and then say you’re a phony or you’re a fake or you’re a hypocrite, I think that’s what’s disappointing and that’s what’s frustrating. Your character is who you are as a man, and that’s a lot more important.”

Tebow later added: ”You work your whole life to build a reputation, and then people try to bring you down when they don’t understand even what happened. It’s disappointing.”

Miami center Mike Pouncey, who played with Tebow at the University of Florida, walked through the Dolphins’ locker room Wednesday saying: ”Free Tim Tebow!”

That has been the sentiment among Tebow’s many supporters, yet the popular backup has had a minimal role in the Jets’ offense. He hasn’t played a snap in four of the last five games, partially due to him recovering from two broken ribs, but he hasn’t been the dynamic addition the Jets expected him to be. New York will either trade or release Tebow after one season.

When asked if he wanted to return to the Jets next season, Tebow said: ”I’m looking forward to this game vs. Buffalo, and we’ve got to pull together and get a win.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, especially from a guy who repeatedly said he was ”excited” to be a member of the Jets when he was acquired from Denver last March.

”It’s hard for Timmy, man,” Pouncey said last week. ”Timmy is a great player. He’s a great friend of mine. I wish him nothing but success, and I know he’s going through a hard time right now. I had the opportunity to talk to him after our last game and you could tell that he was upset and sad that he wasn’t the starting quarterback up there. But I know that once he gets his opportunity he’ll do the best he can.

”If the opportunity is not in New York with the Jets, it will be somewhere else. He’s a guy who is never going to give up on anything, and I know he wants to be a starting quarterback in this league. And that day will come again for him.”

NOTES: CB Antonio Cromartie and S LaRon Landry were selected to the Pro Bowl as backups on the AFC roster. It’s the first time the Jets are sending two defensive backs – and it comes in a year in which star CB Darrelle Revis was lost early in the season with a knee injury. ”When Revis went down, it speaks volumes to what guys took on and made sure everyone was being accountable,” Cromartie said. ”And our back end doing what they were supposed to do.” Landry is the first Jets safety to go to the Pro Bowl since Erik McMillan went in 1988-89. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a second alternate, while C Nick Mangold and KR Joe McKnight are third alternates.

AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Davie, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Week 17 Power Rankings: Broncos grab hold of the top spot


Right now it appears as if Denver and Seattle are playing the best football of all. However, with more experienced teams such as New England in the AFC and Green Bay in the NFC, both of which are in the playoff mix, it’s doubtful that the Broncos and/or Seahawks will make it to the Super Bowl. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner

By Brian McIntyre | Shutdown Corner

1. Denver Broncos (12-3) Last week: 3

The Broncos carry a 10-game winning streak into the regular season finale against the Chiefs, who limited Peyton Manning & Co. to a season-low 17 points on Nov. 25. Denver should have little trouble extending their winning streak to 11 games and could clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Chiefs and some help from Manning’s former team, the Colts, who host the Texans on Sunday.

2. Seattle Seahawks (10-5) Last week: 7

The Seahawks showed that they’re for real with a 42-13 blowout of the 49ers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night. From an advanced metrics standpoint, the Seahawks are the No. 1 team in the NFL, ranking in the Top 5 in Football Outsiders’ offensive, defensive and special teams DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). With a win over the Rams and losses by the 49ers and Packers, the Seahawks will get a first-round bye in the playoffs.

3. San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) Last week: 1

One week after going on the road and beating the Patriots, the 49ers were trounced by division rival Seattle, lost wide receiver Mario Manningham for the remainder of the season and are not sure if All-Pro defensive lineman Justin Smith will be back for the playoffs. The NFC West is still theirs for the taking, but the 49ers are literally limping into the post-season.

4. New England Patriots (11-4) Last week: 2

So much for the ornery Patriots getting back on track by beating up on a cupcake in the form of the Jaguars in Week 16. New England looked sloppy from the get-go as Tom Brady and his receivers appeared to be operating off different playbooks. The Patriots need to get it together this week against the Dolphins as a first-round bye is beyond their control.

5. Green Bay Packers (11-4) Last week: 5

Not only are the Packers peaking at the right time, they’re getting healthy at the right time. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson and safety Charles Woodson could be back as early as this Sunday’s game against the Vikings, where the Packers have a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

6. Atlanta Falcons (13-2) Last week: 6

Matt Ryan for MVP? Hard to argue against a quarterback of the No. 1 seed in the NFC who has completed nearly 70 percent of 571 pass attempts for 4,481 yards with 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Over the last two weeks, Ryan has been outstanding, completing 48-of-60 attempts for 549 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ryan could pad those numbers against a leaky Buccaneers pass defense that ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

7. Houston Texans (12-3) Last week: 4

“We’ve got a lot of mistakes to fix,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said following his team’s 23-6 loss at home to the Vikings in Week 16. If the Texans can get their act together on offense – which could easily happen for that veteran unit – they could be very dangerous in the post-season as their defense ranks in the Top 5 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.

8 Washington Redskins (9-6) Last week: 8

A six-game winning streak has put the Redskins in control of their playoff destiny. Extend that streak to seven with a win at home over the Cowboys and the Redskins will win their first NFC East title since 1999.

9. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) Last week: 10

The Ravens ended a three-game losing streak with a 33-14 thumping of the Giants on Sunday, clinching the AFC North and assuring themselves of at least one home game in January. With that late-season nosedive fresh in their minds, do not expect John Harbaugh to let his team to ease up in the regular season finale.

10. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) Last week: 11

A playoff spot clinched and the Colts get head coach Chuck Pagano back this week. The Colts are an incredible story and could face Pagano’s previous employer, the Ravens, in the opening round of the post-season.

11. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) Last week: 13

Here’s why the Bengals will be a tough out in January: Over the last seven games, they’re allowing just 11.1 points and 272 yards of total offense per game. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer should get some consideration for at least one of the eight or so head coaching vacancies that could open up this offseason.

12. Minnesota Vikings (9-6) Last week: 14

Beat the Packers and the Vikings are in the post-season, which few would have thought was possible earlier this month. The Vikings had lost to the Packers on Dec. 2, which was their fourth loss in five games, and the team placed versatile offensive weapon Percy Harvin on injured reserve. Three wins later, the Vikings are in control of their playoff fate and Leslie Frazier is a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate.

13. New York Giants (8-7) Last week: 9

What has happened to the Giants’ defense? Over the last four weeks, they’ve allowed an average of 446 yards per game, opponents have converted on 55.8 percent on third down and the once vaunted pass rush has just two quarterback sacks. Is it any wonder that the Giants now need help just to get a chance to defend their Super Bowl title in January?

14. Dallas Cowboys (8-7) Last week: 12

The Cowboys’ defense picked the wrong week to have their worst game of the season, allowing the the Saints to rack up 562 yards of total offense, including 446 through the air. The Cowboys remain in control of their playoff destiny – beat the Redskins and they’ll win the NFC East – but that defense, which ranks 23rd according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, is a concern.

15. Chicago Bears (9-6) Last week: 15

The Bears snapped a three-game losing streak with a 28-13 win over the Cardinals, but need and a win and help to make the playoffs. Beating the Lions won’t be easy, nor will doing the unthinkable – rooting for a Packers win, which must happen in order for the Bears to play in January.

16. New Orleans Saints (7-8) Last week: 16

Drew Brees is finishing out his 2012 season on a high note. Over the last two weeks, Brees has completed 63-of-92 pass attempts for 733 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brees is just 219 passing yards and one passing touchdown away from a second consecutive 5,000-yard/40-touchdown season.

17. St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) Last week: 18

With a win over the Seahawks, the Rams can finish the 2012 regular season with an overall record above .500 and go undefeated (5-0-1) within an increasingly difficult NFC West. With two first round picks next season, the Rams can continue stocking their roster and should make the NFC West a legitimate three-team race in 2013.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) Last week: 17

Five of the Steelers’ eight losses in 2012 were by three-point margins. That list does not include inexcusable losses to the Browns (20-14) on Nov. 25 and a 10-point loss to the Chargers at Heinz Field on Dec. 9. Those two losses will sting just as much as the close ones when the Steelers are cleaning out their lockers next week.

19. Carolina Panthers (6-9) Last week: 20

If the Panthers go on the road and beat the Saints to finish 7-9, that has to be enough to buy Ron Rivera another season, right?

20. Miami Dolphins (7-8) Last week: 21

Seven wins and remaining in playoff contention well into December is a good start to the Joe Philbin Era. If the Dolphins can retain Jake Long, Sean Smith and Reggie Bush (and that’s your priority order) this offseason, they should be in the playoff hunt in 2013.

21. San Diego Chargers (6-9) Last week: 27

A win at home over the lowly Raiders on Sunday would allow Norv Turner to close out his tenure with the Chargers with a 7-9 record, which would be a respectable mark considering the injuries and somewhat boneheaded personnel decisions A.J. Smith has made that have handcuffed the offense.

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) Last week: 19

The 2012 season cannot end fast enough for Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. Over the last two weeks, the 2009 first round pick has thrown eight interceptions as the Buccaneers losing skid reached a fifth game in Sunday’s 28-13 loss to the Rams.

23. Cleveland Browns (5-10) Last week: 22

It’s important to note that the Browns’ impressive three-game winning streak in late November/early December came against the Steelers, Raiders and Chiefs. When they faced playoff-caliber teams – the Redskins and Broncos – the Browns were beat by a combined score of 72-33.

24. New York Jets (6-9) Last week: 23

The Jets’ circus reached a whole new level in Week 16 as Greg McElroy was sacked 11 times while Tim Tebow refused to participate in “Wildcat” packages devised for him by offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Sweeping changes within that organization are expected to come after the season.

25. Buffalo Bills (5-10) Last week: 24

The Bills are averaging 13 points per game over the last three weeks and carry their second three-game losing streak of the season into Sunday’s regular season finale against the Jets, a game that will be blacked out on local television. Few would be surprised if this is Chan Gailey’s last game as the Bills’ head coach.

26. Detroit Lions (4-11) Last week: 25

Even with a potential eight-game losing streak to close out a disappointing 2012 season, head coach Jim Schwartz appears safe as his contract extension before the start of the season runs through the 2015 season. The Lions have lost 41 of the 63 regular season games that Schwartz has roamed the sidelines, so it’s “Playoffs or Bust” for him in 2013.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11) Last week: 29

Andy Reid starting Michael Vick, and exposing the team to Vick’s $3 million injury guarantee, in the final game of his tenure as head coach is like a clerk leaving the store unlocked on his final day of work. The Eagles should have parted ways with Reid during this disaster of a season and avoided a scenario like this.

28. Tennessee Titans (5-10) Last week: 26

Head coach Mike Munchak has a point when he says that his coaching staff has only had one offseason to install their program and turnaround the franchise, but owner Bud Adams wasn’t happy with his team’s showing in their 55-7 loss to the Packers. That wasn’t the first time Adams publicly expressed his dismay, which means changes are very possible.

29. Arizona Cardinals (5-10) Last week: 28

Why wouldn’t the Cardinals take a look at Brian Hoyer, as they did in last week’s 28-13 loss to the Bears? Hoyer, 27, backed up Tom Brady for a few seasons and, if he’s resigned in the offseason, could be in the mix for a wide-open competition during the 2013 offseason.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) Last week: 30

If the ESPN report that Tim Tebow is a “virtual certainty” to be with the Jaguars next season comes to fruition, it will be fair to question the intentions of owner Shad Khan. When you don’t know who the GM will be, or who the head coach will be, but you know that Tebow will be on the team, it’s clear that the organization is prioritizing short-term ticket sales over building a winning football program.

31. Oakland Raiders (4-11) Last week: 31

With Carson Palmer out for the regular season finale against the Chargers, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has to decide between starting Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. It has to be Pryor, right? Leinart is a career backup and is not signed for next season. Pryor is under contract through 2014 and the club needs to see what he can do because there are no guarantees that Palmer will be back next season. The 33-year-old Palmer is set to earn $13 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2013 and he has not been a $13 million quarterback in quite some time.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) Last week: 32

How does a team put up 507 yards of total offense and only reach their opponents’ red zone twice? The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, that’s how, who of course turned the ball both times they reached the Colts’ red zone last week.

British paper to sue Armstrong


What a disgrace this guy is! He’s a disgrace to the sport and a disgrace to this country.

I always knew he was doping. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that out. Winning seven consecutive Tours after being practically dead, and defeating more talented cyclists (who oh by the way were also doping) is a dead giveaway. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters 

Lance Armstrong walks back to his car after running at Mount Royal park with fans in Montreal August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

LONDON (Reuters) – The Sunday Times is suing disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong for around one million pounds ($1.62 million) over his libel action against the British newspaper in 2004.

Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles from 1999-2005 in October, received 300,000 pounds from the Sunday Times as payment towards his legal fees after the paper raised questions about the American’s success following his recovery from testicular cancer.

“It is clear that the proceedings were baseless and fraudulent. Your representations that you had never taken performance enhancing drugs were deliberately false,” read the letter to Armstrong’s lawyers in the Sunday Times.

The paper is demanding the return of the 300,000 pounds payment plus interest, as well as costs accrued in defending the case, which was settled in 2006.

A report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in October said the now-retired Armstrong had been involved in the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program the sport has ever seen.”

Armstrong has always denied using performance-enhancing drugs but chose not to contest the USADA charges.

($1 = 0.6180 British pounds)

(Writing by Tom Pilcher, Editing by Alison Wildey)

Ex-boxer ‘Macho’ Camacho dies after shooting


Because of the nature of the sport, very few professional fighters are what one would call “decent” human beings. Most come from broken homes and grow up in the streets as thugs. By the way, boxers aren’t the only ones to which this applies. Promoter Don King, pictured below with the “nest” on his head, is a bigger scum-bag than most boxers combined. This guy has to go down in history as one of the biggest leeches of all-time. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By DANICA COTO and DAVID SKRETTA (Associated Press) | The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hector ”Macho” Camacho, a Puerto Rican boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, was declared dead on Saturday, four days after being shot in the face. He was 50.

Shot while sitting in a parked car outside a bar Tuesday with a friend in the city of Bayamon, he was declared dead at the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan. The friend, 49-year-old Adrian Mojica Moreno, died at the scene of the shooting. Police said Mojica had nine small bags of cocaine in his pocket and a 10th bag was found open in the car.

Originally from Bayamon, just outside San Juan, Camacho was long regarded as a flashy if volatile talent, a skilled boxer who was perhaps overshadowed by his longtime foil, Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez, who would beat him in a long-awaited showdown in Las Vegas in 1992.

Camacho fought professionally for three decades, from his humble debut against David Brown at New York’s Felt Forum in 1980 to an equally forgettable swansong against Sal Duran in Kissimmee, Florida, in 2010.

In between, he fought some of the biggest stars spanning two eras, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Roberto Duran.

”This is something I’ve done all my life, you know?” Camacho told The Associated Press after a workout in 2010. ”A couple years back, when I was doing it, I was still enjoying it. The competition, to see myself perform. I know I’m at the age that some people can’t do this no more.”

Camacho’s family moved to New York when he was young and he grew up in Spanish Harlem, which at the time was rife with crime. Camacho landed in jail as a teenager before turning to boxing, which for many kids in his neighborhood provided an outlet for their aggression.

Former featherweight champion Juan Laporte, a friend since childhood, described Camacho as ”like a little brother who was always getting into trouble,” but otherwise combined a friendly nature with a powerful jab.

”He’s a good human being, a good hearted person,” Laporte said as he waited with other friends and members of the boxer’s family outside the hospital in San Juan after the shooting. ”A lot of people think of him as a cocky person but that was his motto … inside he was just a kid looking for something.”

Laporte lamented that Camacho never found a mentor outside the boxing ring.

”The people around him didn’t have the guts or strength to lead him in the right direction,” Laporte said. ”There was no one strong enough to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him how to do it.”

Drug, alcohol and other problems trailed Camacho after the prime of his boxing career. He was sentenced in 2007 to seven years in prison for the burglary of a computer store in Mississippi. While arresting him on the burglary charge in January 2005, police also found the drug ecstasy.

A judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation. He wound up serving two weeks in jail, though, after violating that probation.

Camacho’s former wife, Amy, obtained a restraining order against him in 1998, alleging he threatened her and one of their children. The couple, who had two children at the time, later divorced.

He divided his time between Puerto Rico and Florida in recent years, appearing on Spanish-language television as well as on a reality show called ”Es Macho Time!” on YouTube.

Inside the boxing ring, Camacho flourished. He won three Golden Gloves titles as an amateur, and after turning pro, he quickly became a contender with an all-action style reminiscent of other Puerto Rican fighters.

Long promoted by Don King, Camacho won his first world title by beating Rafael Limon in a super-featherweight bout in Puerto Rico on Aug. 7, 1983. He moved up in weight two years later to capture a lightweight title by defeating Jose Luis Ramirez, and successfully defended the belt against fellow countryman Edwin Rosario.

The Rosario fight, in which the victorious Camacho still took a savage beating, persuaded him to scale back his ultra-aggressive style in favor of a more cerebral, defensive approach.

The change in style was a big reason that Camacho, at the time 38-0, lost a close split decision to Greg Haugen at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in 1991.

Camacho won the rematch to set up his signature fight against Chavez, this time at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Camacho was roundly criticized for his lack of action, and the Mexican champion won a lopsided unanimous decision to retain the lightweight title.

It was at that point that Camacho became the name opponent for other rising contenders, rather than the headliner fighting for his own glory.

He lost a unanimous decision to another young Puerto Rican fighter, Trinidad, and was soundly defeated by De La Hoya. In 1997, Camacho ended Leonard’s final comeback with a fifth-round knockout. It was Camacho’s last big victory even though he boxed for another decade.

”Hector was a fighter who brought a lot of excitement to boxing,” said Ed Brophy, executive director of International the Boxing Hall of Fame. ”He was a good champion. Roberto Duran is kind of in a class of his own, but Hector surely was an exciting fighter that gave his all to the sport.”

The fighter’s last title bout came in 1997 against welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya, who won by unanimous decision. Camacho’s last fight was his defeat by Duran in May 2010. He had a career record of 79-6-3.

IOC to investigate Armstrong’s Olympic medal


Lance Armstrong went from being an American hero to an embarrassment as a world-class cheat; talk about a fall from grace… I will never understand the stupidity of these athletes. They take performance enhancing drugs and as a result of it are at the top of their sport, which also means they are the most popular with fans and the media. With all that exposure, does it ever occur to them that sooner or later they’re going to get caught? I guess not. That’s what makes them stupid. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Karolos Grohmann | Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will investigate Lance Armstrong’s 2000 Olympics bronze medal after the American was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in the biggest doping scandal to hit the sport.

“The IOC will now immediately start the process concerning the involvement of Lance Armstrong, other riders and particularly their entourages with respect to the Olympic Games and their future involvement with the Games,” an IOC official told Reuters on Thursday.

Armstrong, who won a time trial medal at the Sydney Games, was stripped of his 1999-2005 Tour victories last month when the International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) decision to erase his results from August, 1998.

A USADA report that included testimony from several former team mates against him and themselves, called it the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.

Apart from stripping Armstrong’s titles, the UCI also said it was setting up an independent commission to investigate allegations made against the UCI over the Armstrong affair.

“The IOC has taken note of the UCI’s decision and welcomes all measures that will shed light on the full extent of this episode and allow the sport to reform and to move forward,” the IOC official said.

“We await the findings of the independent commission which will look into the UCI’s role, and the recommendations they will make to ensure a healthy future for cycling.”

Armstrong, who overcame cancer to dominate the sport, has always denied doping and maintains he never failed a drugs test.

The IOC has an eight-year statute of limitation for changing Olympic results and stripping medals from doping offenders but IOC vice-president Thomas Bach hinted last month there could be ways around the time limit in this case.

“USADA’s report has given some pointers that the statute of limitation was interrupted through Lance Armstrong lying about doping,” Bach, a lawyer who heads the IOC’s juridical commission told Reuters in an interview.

“We will have to examine to see if this is a way we can follow according to Swiss law.”

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John Mehaffey)

Lance Armstrong’s Tour titles stripped, says UCI


It finally happened; it’s now official – Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven (7) Tour de France titles. It’s a sad day for Americans, especially cycling aficionados. But, having said that, Lance didn’t deserve to win all of those titles. At the end of the day he’s a cheat just like many others. However, contrary to popular belief, there ARE athletes in the sport who do not dope.

This process should never have taken this long. As a cyclist and someone who follows the sport, I knew Lance was doping since he won his second Tour de France. I do realize however that proving it is a whole other matter. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Julien Pretot | Reuters

FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2010, file photo, cyclist Lance Armstrong greets fellow riders prior to the start of his Livestrong Challenge 10K ride for cancer in Blue Bell, Pa. Armstrong said Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, he is stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so the group can focus on its mission instead of its founder's problems. The move came a week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower, File)

GENEVA, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life on Monday after the International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) sanctions against the American.

The long-awaited decision has left cycling facing its “greatest crisis” according to UCI president Pat McQuaid and has destroyed Armstrong’s last hope of clearing his name.

“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” McQuaid told a news conference as he outlined how cycling, long battered by doping problems for decades, would have to start all over again.

“The UCI wishes to begin that journey on that path forward today by confirming that it will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and that it will recognise the sanction that USADA has imposed.

“I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report.”

On Oct. 10, USADA published a report into Armstrong which alleged the now-retired rider had been involved in the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.

Armstrong, 41, had previously elected not to contest USADA charges, prompting USADA to propose his punishment pending confirmation from cycling’s world governing body.

Former Armstrong team mates at his U.S. Postal and Discovery Channel outfits, where he won his seven successive Tour titles from 1999 to 2005, testified against him and themselves and were given reduced bans by the American authorities.

“It wasn’t until the intervention of federal agents…they called these riders in and they put down a gun and badge on the table in front of them and said ‘you’re now facing a grand jury you must tell the truth’ that those riders broke down,” McQuaid added.

Armstrong, widely accepted as one of the greatest cyclists of all time given he fought back from cancer to dominate the sport, has always denied doping and says he has never failed a doping test.

He said he had stopped contesting the charges after years of probes and rumours because “there comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough'”.

WIDESPREAD DOPING

McQuaid, who faced criticism from several quarters for his and the UCI’s handling of the affair, said he would not be resigning.

“Cycling has a future. This is not the first time cycling has reached a crossroads or that it has had to begin anew,” he said in front of a packed room full of journalists and television cameras.

“When I took over (as president) in 2005 I made the fight against doping my priority. I acknowledged cycling had a culture of doping. Cycling has come a long way. I have no intention of resigning as president of the UCI.

“I am sorry we couldn’t catch every damn one of them red handed and throw them out of the sport.”

Other issues such as the potential re-awarding of Armstrong’s Tour titles and the matter of prize money will be discussed by the UCI Management Committee on Friday.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme has said he believes no rider should inherit the titles given doping was so widespread among the peloton at the time but McQuaid made it clear the decision rested with his organisation, not the Tour.

USADA charged five people over the doping ring. Doctors Luis Garcia del Moral and Michele Ferrari and trainer Pepe Marti have been banned for life while Armstrong’s mentor Johan Bruyneel has chosen to go to arbitration along with doctor Pedro Celaya.

Armstrong’s last hope that the UCI might not ratify USADA’s ruling sprang from long-running dispute between the two bodies over who should handle the case.

In statements issued at the news conference, the UCI continued the feud with USADA despite ratifying its decision.

“Even apart from any discussion on jurisdiction, it would have been better that the evidence collected by USADA had been assessed by a neutral body or person who was not involved in collecting the evidence and prosecuting the defendant,” it said.

“This would have avoided both the criticism of a witch hunt against Mr Armstrong and the criticism that the UCI had a conflict of interest.”

The UCI also said it had dope tested Armstrong 218 times and the fact he never tested positive and “beat the system” means that other organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency should share the responsibility of accepting the results.

USADA chief Travis Tygart issued a statement approving of the UCI’s action but warning that more needed to be done.

“Despite its prior opposition to USADA’s investigation into doping on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team and within the sport, USADA is glad that the UCI finally reversed course in this case and has made the credible decision available to it,” he said.

“This determination to uphold USADA’s decision on the U.S. Postal Services case does not by itself clean up cycling nor does it ensure the sport has moved past the obstacles that allowed doping to flourish in the age of EPO and blood transfusions.

“For cycling to truly move forward and for the world to know what went on in cycling, it is essential that an independent and meaningful Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established so that the sport can fully unshackle itself from the past.”

In recent years the Tour de France and cycling had looked to be winning the battle against dopers but when asked if the sport would one day be free of the scourge, McQuaid answered: “No.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would take its time to digest the news amid suggestions that Armstrong could be stripped of his 2000 Sydney Olympics time trial bronze.

“We will study UCI’s response to the USADA report and await to receive their full decision including further potential sanctions against Lance Armstrong as well as regarding any ramifications to his case,” an IOC official said.    (Additional reporting by Brian Homewood, Toby Davis, Mitch Phillips, Gene Cherry Karolos Grohmann and Justin Palmer; Editing by Mark Meadows)

Lance Armstrong’s Worst Week Ever Now Includes Bribery Charges


Wow, if this is true, Lance is a real low-life. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: The Atlantic Wire

By Connor Simpson | The Atlantic Wire

Lance Armstrong’s week has included new details of a potential doping ring, losing major sponsors like Nike, and even some smaller ones like Anheuser-Busch and Trek bicycles. Add a renewed interest in old race fixing accusations to that list.

ABC News in Australia uncovered a previously unheard sworn deposition from New Zealand rider Stephen Swart in a 2006 American court case that alleges Armstrong and members of his team bribed Swart and his team to throw the final two legs of a series of races in 1993. Armstrong offered $50,000 to Swart and his team to not “be aggressive and challenge,” in the last two races. Armstrong was focused on winning the $1 million bonus for whoever won all three races and he already had the first race put away. Armstrong went on to win, though Swart has said he didn’t understand why Armstrong paid them to hold back because he thinks Armstrong probably would have won anyway. Still, Swart said they got their money a few weeks later.

ABC in Australia is particularly interested in the story because legendary Australian cyclist and former Armstrong mentor Phil Anderson was allegedly in the hotel room when the deal was made between Armstrong and Swart. In an interview with ABC, Anderson couldn’t recall a deal ever being made but wouldn’t deny it happening, either. It’s also a story that’s stuck around. Swart told it under oath in a separate 2004 U.S. court case, and he gave the same version of events in the Armstrong-focused book LA Confidential, a book by Armstrong expert David Walsh. Swart joined Armstrong’s Motorola team in 1994, a year after the alleged bribe.

Seahawks stun Packers in one of the craziest, most controversial endings ever


This game definitely had a crazy ending. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Shutdown Corner; a Yahoo Sports Blog

Photography: Getty Images

By Brian McIntyre | Shutdown Corner

 

In one of the wildest finishes in modern NFL history, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate outmuscled Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings to haul in a Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson to give the Seahawks a controversial 14-12 win on Monday Night Football.

After trailing 7-0 at halftime, the Packers thoroughly dominated the final 30 minutes, with kicker Mason Crosby kicking a pair of field goals before running back Cedric Benson plunged into the end zone with 8:53 remaining in the fourth quarter to give Green Bay a 12-7 lead.

The Seahawks responded by driving down to the Packers’ seven-yard line before turning the ball over on downs when Tate couldn’t haul in a pass from Wilson with 1:54 remaining. The Seahawks had a pair of timeouts, and were able to force a punt from the Packers, getting the ball back at the Green Bay 46-yard line with 46 seconds remaining.

Wilson connected with wide receiver Sidney Rice for 22 yards on the first play of the possession before firing incompletions to Tate, tight end Evan Moore and then Tate again to set up a fourth down from the Packers’ 24-yard line. Facing a three-man rush, Wilson was able to give himself some additional time before heaving the ball into the back corner of the north end zone, where Packers defenders and two Seahawks — Tate and Moore — jumped for the ball. Jennings appeared to haul in the interception, but Tate was able to get his hands on the ball as the two fell to the turf. Two officials converged on the scene, with replacement side judge Lance Easley making the call on the field of a touchdown, which was shockingly upheld by the replay official.

“I was told M.D. Jennings had the ball,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said in post-game press conference. “I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years in football.

“Very unusual. Most unusual football game that I think I’ve been a part of. I know it’s been a wild weekend in the NFL and I guess we’re part of it now.”

And based on the NFL rule, it shouldn’t have been a catch. And the fact it was a replay and still wrong, makes it worse (Let’s not even mention it was blatant offensive pass interference). The rule clearly states the play was an interception:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneous by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains control.

Other Packers were more outspoken in their disbelief over what had transpired on the field, with guard T.J. Lang tweeting that Green Bay had been “robbed” by the officials before thanking the NFL for the embarrassing scenario. (Warning NSFW language)

Besides Lang, several athletes took Twitter by storm to give their reactions to the game.

Analysts including Steve Young and Mike Ditka voiced their displeasure over the call. Young went so far to say the officials are ruining the NFL and it’s hard to stomach.

“It was awful,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the call on the field and the replay. “Just look at the replay. The fact it was reviewed … it was awful. That’s all I’m going to say about it.”

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had a much different take, agreeing with the call on the field of a simultaneous catch.

“What a Monday Night Football game,” Carroll said. “Tremendous night.”

Pro sports more gay-friendly as athletes speak out


I believe it’s going to be quite some time before sports become “gay-friendly” as the article claims, and this is especially true of the four major sports in this country. Obviously being a gay figure skater would surprise (much less shock) no one, but gay professional athletes in baseball, football, basketball or hockey is altogether different.

It would take real testicles for say, a prominent football player such as a star quarterback or running back to publicly announce that he is gay. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By PATRICK CONDON | Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — NFL punters are only seen on fourth down and heard from less than that. But with Minnesota voters weighing whether to ban gay marriage this fall, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has emerged as a high-profile gay rights champion — and a symbol of changing attitudes toward homosexuality in the sports world.

“I’d like to win some votes against the amendment,” Kluwe told The Associated Press. “It would permanently change the state constitution. Who are we to say we should decide what our children should do on this subject? If we’re not the generation to make gay marriage legal, why should we prevent our children having a say on the matter?”

Kluwe, a colorful 30-year-old with political science and history degrees from UCLA, is known for his love of video games, for getting a perfect score on the verbal portion of the SAT test and for his liberal political views. He agreed some time ago to speak out against Minnesota’s amendment and headlined a long-planned fundraiser against the amendment Friday night.

But Kluwe got a massive new audience for his views after he penned a blistering open letter to a Maryland state lawmaker who criticized another NFL player, Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, for supporting gay marriage with the issue also on Maryland’s ballot.

“Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you or act different than you?” Kluwe wrote to Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. The full letter, posted by the sports website Deadspin.com, was laced with profanity and sarcasm.

Burns had written to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, urging him to restrain Ayanbadejo from speaking publicly on the issue. Kluwe said it was the assault on free speech, not Burns’ opposition to gay marriage, that angered him.

Burns did not return a phone call from The Associated Press. A Democrat and a Baptist pastor, he told the Baltimore Sun that “upon reflection” Ayanbadejo has the right to express his views.

In all, four states are voting on gay marriage this year. Minnesota’s vote is on a constitutional ban; in Maryland, as well as Maine and Washington, voters are deciding whether gay marriage should be legal.

“I’m just going to continue to voice my First Amendment rights and continue to support the cause,” Ayanbadejo said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The incident evoked memories of a 1998 controversy involving the NFL and homosexuality, but with the roles reversed. Back then, All-Pro defensive end Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers made national news by criticizing homosexuality and gay activists, first in a speech to Wisconsin state lawmakers and later in a full-page advertisement in USA Today. White died in 2004.

Pro athletes and team officials say attitudes have slowly shifted in a sports culture often seen as one of the last bastions of acceptable homophobia.

“We call it casual homophobia,” said Patrick Burke, a scout for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and founder of the You Can Play Project, which aims to increase acceptance for gay athletes. “Athletes will use slurs like ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘don’t be a fag’ without thinking about what they’re really saying. You might think it’s harmless, but for that young athlete in the corner who’s closeted, it’s a huge deal.”

No active athlete in the four most popular pro sports — football, baseball, basketball or hockey — has come out publicly as gay, according to the gay-oriented sports website Outsports.com.

“I’ve always called it the last closet in American society,” said Jim Buzinski, the site’s co-founder. “The fact that no player has ever come out while active, it shows you how entrenched that culture is.”

Some players have after retiring. Esera Tuaolo, a retired NFL tackle who played for the Vikings from 1992 to 1996, came out in 2002, explaining he stayed quiet for years when he heard homophobic slurs or taunting in the locker room.

Minnesota Gophers basketball star Trevor Mbakwe joined Kluwe and Tuaolo at the Minneapolis fundraiser.

“To defeat the amendment, we need to aim our message at the independent and moderate, maybe Republican-leaning voters that just haven’t thought much about this issue,” said Tracy Call, an ad exec for Minnesotans for Equality, which organized the event.

Several sports figures say they were influenced by gay family members. Kluwe has a gay brother-in-law, “and I’d like to see him be able to get married someday,” he said.

Connor Barwin, a linebacker for the Houston Texans, has talked about his gay brother and his own support for equal marriage rights. Burke, the NHL scout, had a gay brother who also worked in hockey management but died in a 2010 car accident.

NFL leadership has supported players’ right to speak out. League spokesman Greg Aiello said a statement issued a decade ago still holds: “As an institution, the NFL is a meritocracy that also places a high priority on tolerance and diversity … on that basis an individual’s sexual orientation is entirely irrelevant.”

In Baltimore, Ravens center Matt Birk said he thought the NFL was evolving toward greater acceptance of homosexuality. He declined to talk about his own feelings on gay marriage, but spoke out strongly in support of other players’ freedom to take stands. And he said he was “absolutely” willing to play with a gay teammate.

Some of Kluwe’s teammates were more reluctant to talk about it.

“I’ve just been mainly focusing on getting snaps to him. So I’ve stayed away from his media blitz,” said Cullen Loeffler, the Vikings long snapper who spends as much time with Kluwe as anyone on the team.

But Kluwe said the private response from Vikings players and management has been positive.

“For me personally, what I’m seeing is guys who are willing to live and let live,” Kluwe said. “They don’t really care about it, and at the end of the day when we’re in the locker room, it’s what can you do to help us win on Sunday?”

___

Associated Press reporter Dave Campbell and AP freelancer Jason Butt in Baltimore contributed to this report.

Lance Armstrong’s innocence is refuted in ‘The Secret Race,’ but many may not care


When you get right down to it, Lance Armstrong is not what one would call a nice guy. He wanted to win at all costs; no matter what it took.

What I find interesting is how really, really stupid people such as Lance are. How could he ever believe that he would never get caught cheating, that with all of the cyclists competing against him, all the media and all of the sports’ organizers, that he could fool them all indefinitely. Now we all know who the real fool was all along… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Yahoo Sports

Photography: Getty Images

Well, what do you think of Lance Armstrong now?

That question will be asked all over the country (and Europe) this week with the release of a tell-all book that is as damning as it is thorough. It’s difficult to read “The Secret Race” by former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton and come away with anything but a sense that an intricate (and brainy) plot allowed the seven-time Tour de France winner (and others) to cheat to win.

Asked Wednesday by phone what he felt was the biggest myth exploded in “The Secret Race,” Hamilton told Yahoo! Sports, “That only a few bad eggs were doping. Every rider I knew – knew well enough – [doped]. It was a choice that most young professional riders had to make a decision on, including me.”

Hamilton isn’t shy about that point, either in the book or over the phone. “It starts with just a small red pill,” he explains. “Then a shot of EPO. Then the next year you do a little bit more. Then it becomes a part of your routine. Then they expect you to go to the best doctors; they expect you to be flying on all cylinders. It’s a tough spot to be in.”

So if everyone was doping and everyone knew everyone was doping, that doesn’t leave Armstrong’s plea of innocence much wiggle room. As Outside magazine declares, “No one can read this book with an open mind and still credibly believe that Armstrong didn’t dope.”

One of the many eyebrow-raising passages in “The Secret Race” is when Armstrong is said to have conversed with leaders of the sport after an alleged failed drug test during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland. In the book Hamilton implies that the cycling hierarchy helped Armstrong get away with something.

Lance had a strange smile on his face. He was kind of chuckling, like someone had told him a good joke.”You won’t [expletive] believe this,” he said. “I got popped for EPO.”

It took me a second to absorb. My stomach hit the floor. If that was true, Lance was done. The team was done. I was done. He laughed that dry laugh again.

“No worries dude. We’re gonna have a meeting with them. It’s all taken care of.”

Hamilton does more than hint that cycling had all the incentive in the world for Armstrong to keep clean and keep winning. He writes simply: “The UCI didn’t want to catch Lance.”

Hamilton doesn’t exactly gloat about his findings. He calls the book “a sad story” and, when asked if he would have pursued cycling if he knew at the start of his career what he knows now, he says, “I don’t think so.” He insists he wants very much to help clean up the sport, but he quietly offers an anecdote about when he asked his 10-year-old nephew what he wanted to be when he grows up. The boy told Hamilton he wanted to be a cyclist.

“That made me feel sick,” he says.

One would think reading this book would make Armstrong’s supporters feel sick, too. But don’t expect many minds to change.

Armstrong’s detractors will point to this book as the ultimate prosecution of cycling’s greatest American hero. In fact, you can expect many to conclude Armstrong recently dropped his fight with anti-doping authorities because a mountain of witness “evidence” like this was about to surface. And Hamilton enlists more than a few credible witnesses to take the stand in this book – teammates, rivals, friends. The result is overwhelming: testimony not only about when and how the alleged doping was done, but how many layers it took. “It was sort of a Russian doll,” says co-author Dan Coyle, also interviewed by phone Wednesday. “Compartments and compartments and compartments. At the end of the day, though, all the stuff is happening behind closed doors. It was a community of secrets.”

This wasn’t Jose Canseco going into a bathroom stall with a syringe; this was an entire network of codes and informants, including wives as sentries, leaving the testers in the dust like a fallen rider writhing in pain behind the peloton. Performance enhancing drugs were wrapped in foil, in Coke cans, even in a vacuum cleaner. “If you were careful and paid attention,” writes Hamilton, “you could dope and be 99 percent certain that you would not get caught.”

In other words, although the subterfuge reads like a screenplay for an episode of “24,” evading the drug police wasn’t all that difficult. In one of the more clandestine anecdotes, Hamilton writes that a courier nicknamed “Motoman” would ride up to Armstrong with prepaid cell phones and thermoses of EPO.

So the most significant aspect from Hamilton’s work is not that he has evidence Armstrong doped – we knew that already from his “60 Minutes” interview – but rather it’s the undermining of Armstrong’s famous PR crutch, namely that he never failed a drug test. That claim is getting more and more meaningless by the day, it seems.

“The Secret Race” attacks all the Armstrong arguments like the great rider himself attacked mountains. How about the idea that if everyone’s doping, the playing field is level? Sorry: Hamilton has a quote from a doctor insisting that “the winner in a doped race is not the one who trained the hardest, but the one who trained the hardest and whose physiology responded best to the drugs.” And then, it’s Hamilton himself who writes, “Once you get past a one-week race, it quickly becomes impossible for clean riders to compete with riders using [EPO], because [EPO] is too big an advantage. The longer the race, the bigger the advantage becomes – hence the power of [EPO] in the Tour de France.” And then there are the issues with Armstrong’s personality, including one instance in which Hamilton recalls the American hero racing to track down a driver who’d yelled at him, pulling him out of his car, pummeling him and leaving him in a heap.

The evidence against Armstrong in this book is staggering, but it could have included a photo of Armstrong attaching a V-12 engine to his bike and it wouldn’t sway the believers.

That’s because a lot of the believers don’t care a lick about cycling.

Example: A man named Matt Taylor wore a “Livestrong” T-shirt around Orlando over the holiday weekend. Asked about the allegations of Armstrong cheating, Taylor shrugged and said that didn’t matter to him. He even volunteered that he heard Armstrong wasn’t a very good husband, either.

Taylor has no idea how many Tours his hero won. He doesn’t follow cycling much at all. He’s hardly offended that Armstrong may have done something improper in the course of winning.

Why? Because when he was sick with testicular cancer eight years ago, a friend gave him Armstrong’s book. He read it and was inspired. Case closed.

See, this isn’t your usual sports debate, where fans disagree about, say, whether Derek Jeter is overrated. This is a debate that has very little to do with sports. It’s about the worth of a man. And how that man conducted himself in a field about which so few care, well, the details of his behavior in the mountains of France don’t really compare to the details of how he behaved when lying on his deathbed. Doing anything to win is actually commendable when winning means living to see age 40.

Even Coyle acknowledges this when he says of Armstrong, “The world is a different and better place because of the work he’s done.”

Some will say Armstrong used his cancer as both a shield and a lever for his rise to fame and fortune. Again, supporters don’t care. Millions of dollars were raised for cancer research and so what if the guy in the lead may have been unethical during his races? Investment bankers on Wall Street are some of the most charitable people in the world, and also some of the most corrupt. The ends justifying the means is up for debate when bickering about the SEC’s recruiting tactics, but not nearly as much when lives are on the line.

The only finish line Matt Taylor ever cared about was the one lingering at the end of his cancer treatment. Taylor is healthy now, at age 41, and Lance Armstrong helped him get there. That’s all that matters to him.

Whatever side of the Lance Armstrong debate you’re on, this book will probably not change it no matter how convincing it may be. That’s because this debate is not a sports debate. Far from it. This is a debate between belief and non-belief. Believers and non-believers tend to remain that way. As Hamilton writes about his own dual mindset, he had to “live on two planets at once” – the life he lived, and the one he forced himself to believe he lived. Those two planets still exist, whether or not Hamilton still lives on both. And whatever you think of Lance Armstrong the cyclist, Lance Armstrong the brand will likely remain one of the most convincing on the planet we’re all living on.

Visiting Cowboys cut down Giants in NFL season opener


Well, one of my two favorite teams, the Dallas Cowboys, played very well last night and defeated the Super Bowl champs (couldn’t happen to a “nicer” bunch of guys). Romo once again proved that he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the league, although unfortunately, I failed to draft him in either one of my fantasy leagues.

On another note, the Cowboys’ defense looked solid compared to previous years. If they continue to play at this level, the Cowboys could go far into the playoffs this year; they certainly have the weapons… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Larry Fine | Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Dallas Cowboys spoiled an opening night celebration of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl victory by beating the home team 24-17 on Wednesday to launch the 2012 National Football League season.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo completed 22-of-29 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

Unheralded Kevin Ogletree, who had no touchdown receptions in his first three seasons in the league, caught eight passes for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while DeMarco Murray rushed for 129 yards on 19 carries.

“This is a hostile environment, a tough place to play,” said Dallas coach Jason Garrett. “When you play the Super Bowl champs at their place on opening night, it’s a difficult task. We viewed it as a challenge.”

The opening night program began with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ushering in the new season and saluting the Giants to the roars of more than 80,000 fans, but before long it was the Cowboys who were dominating on the ground and in the air.

“Humble pie is basically what it is,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “Hopefully the competitive nature of our guys, they will come out swinging (next time).

“You’re not going to get excuses from us tonight. They beat us.”

The Cowboys built a 24-10 lead with less than six minutes to play after a leaping catch by Miles Austin turned into a 34-yard touchdown before the Giants closed in with a 79-yard scoring drive.

Dallas ran the clock out after Romo connected with Ogletree for 15 yards to convert a third-and-12 with about two minutes left in the game, as the Cowboys avenged two late season losses to New York that kept them out of the playoffs.

ROMO ON TARGET

The visitors took a 7-3 lead into the intermission and built a 14-3 advantage following the kickoff for the second half when Ogletree, an undrafted receiver out of Virginia in his fourth season, hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass.

New York responded with a 10-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw, set up by a 39-yard pass to Domenik Hixon, to make it 14-10.

A 33-yard field goal by Dan Bailey made it 17-10 for Dallas before the teams traded fourth-quarter touchdowns to complete the scoring.

Dallas outgained the Giants 433 yards to 269, and though New York’s vaunted pass rush registered a pair of sacks, Cowboys quarterback Romo scrambled out of trouble to make several big completions.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the Most Valuable Player of New York’s Super Bowl win over New England last season, faced heavy pressure from the Dallas rush and was sacked three times. He completed 21-of-32 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.

Both teams lost starting players to injuries during the game, with Dallas center Phil Costa sidelined with back spasms after his third play from scrimmage and New York having their depleted defensive secondary hit further by a hamstring injury to Michael Coe.

The game was marked by sloppy play and a slew of penalty flags thrown by the replacement officials, employed by the league during a contract dispute with the regular crews.

The rest of the NFL’s Week One schedule will be played on Sunday and Monday.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Cowboys-Giants: Didn’t we just do this?


Are you ready for some football!!!

Hopefully, my Cowboys won’t start the season by laying yet another egg tomorrow night. One can only hope… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By BARRY WILNER | Associated Press

So there we were, the final game of the 2011 season, the Cowboys at the Giants with the NFC East title on the line.

New York won 31-14 and, a month or so later, was taking home its second Vince Lombardi Trophy in five seasons.

Now, here we are, the opening of the 2012 schedule, and there are the Cowboys journeying Wednesday to the Meadowlands to take on the Super Bowl champions, who are 4-point favorites.

It’s one of the NFL’s better rivalries, but the Giants have won most of the significant meetings in recent years. And no team has lost the prime-time kickoff to the season after winning the NFL title since the tradition was begun in 2004.

“Every game is a tough game,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Seems to go pretty close to the wire. On the 17th week last year was a little bit of an exception, but every game is a battle. These two teams play each other hard and they’re two talented teams that are very physical and that’s the way these games always are.”

As this one will be. Dallas retooled its defense, particularly the secondary, to deal with the strong passing game the Giants and Eagles present in the NFC East. The Giants (No. 3 in the AP Pro32) also had significant changes, especially on offense with rookie David Wilson now the primary backup to running back Ahmad Bradshaw, and big-play third receiver Mario Manningham gone.

One key player, Dallas tight end Jason Witten, is recovering from a lacerated spleen. The Cowboys (No. 15, AP Pro32) need him to have any chance.

GIANTS, 27-17

No. 30 Miami (plus 10½) at No. 6 Houston

BEST BET: Texans are aiming for Super Bowl. Dolphins are aiming to avoid cellar.

TEXANS, 27-6

No. 10 Atlanta (minus 2½) at No. 17 Kansas City

UPSET SPECIAL: Chiefs are hurting, but relatively healthy compared to 2011 debacle.

CHIEFS, 17-14

No. 7 Pittsburgh (plus 1) at No. 11 Denver

Could be punishing return for Peyton Manning. He’ll survive the pounding.

BRONCOS, 22-20

No. 27 Indianapolis (plus 9½) at No. 12 Chicago

Rough debut for Andrew Luck. Better times ahead.

BEARS, 27-10

No. 24 Washington (plus 9½) at No. 9 New Orleans

Rough debut for RG3. Actually he should do well, but Saints are ticked off bunch that will score plenty.

SAINTS, 33-23

No. 22 Seattle (minus 2½) at No. 25 Arizona

Another rookie QB, Russell Wilson, will fare better than Luck and Griffin.

SEAHAWKS, 20-16

No. 4 San Francisco (plus 5½) at No. 1 Green Bay

They easily could meet again at Lambeau in January.

PACKERS, 24-17

No. 8 Philadelphia (minus 8½) at No. 32 Cleveland

Eagles can’t afford another stumble out of the gate.

EAGLES 17-10

No. 20 Buffalo (plus 3) at No. 19 N.Y. Jets

Mario Williams and Mark Anderson meet at the QB, whether it’s Sanchez or Tebow.

BILLS, 17-13

No. 2 New England (minus 6½) at No. 21 Tennessee

Tom Brady got banged around in preseason. Titans can rush passer. Still …

PATRIOTS, 28-24

No. 31 Jacksonville (plus 4) at No. 28 Minnesota

Might be only time Vikings are favored this season.

VIKINGS, 14-9

No. 29 St. Louis (plus 8½) at No. 13 Detroit

Difficult spot for Jeff Fisher in first game as Rams coach.

LIONS, 30-13

No. 18 Carolina (minus 2½) at No. 26 Tampa Bay

Bucs being touted as one of most improved teams. We think that might be Panthers instead.

PANTHERS, 27-20

No. 14 Cincinnati (plus 6) at No. 5 Baltimore, Monday

With improving offense, Ravens could be class of AFC.

RAVENS, 21-13

No. 16 San Diego (minus 1) at No. 23 Oakland, Monday

Norv Turner needs fast start to season with Chargers.

CHARGERS, 27-20

___

2011 RECORD:

Against spread: 133-111-5.

Straight up 176-91.

Best Bet: 4-15 against spread, 13-6 straight up.

Upset Special: 11-7 against spread, 8-10 straight up.

___

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

‘Don’t cry for me’, says defiant Armstrong


Armstrong is going to blow this off, as most cheats do, which is a real shame. This is what all of those home run hitters in baseball; Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, etc. did. But if Lance Armstrong was a man (unlike those previously mentioned) he would admit his guilt, and maybe, just maybe, positively influence even if only one kid who will learn that cheating doesn’t pay.

I realize it’s a low blow considering all that Lance Armstrong has been through with his fight against cancer, but maybe the fact that he’s missing one testicle prevents him from having the “balls” to come clean. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

Reuters – Sun, Aug 26, 2012

(Reuters) – Lance Armstrong was back on his bike on Saturday, urging his supporters not to ‘cry’ for him a day after the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) decision to strip his seven Tour de France titles and ban him for life.

In his first public appearance since announcing he would no longer fight doping charges brought by USADA, Armstrong finished second in a 36-mile mountain bike race in Aspen, Colorado, five minutes behind a 16-year-old rider, Keegan Swirbul.

Wearing sunglasses and black and gold riding gear adorned with sponsors’ logos, Armstrong appeared unfussed by the media throng that had travelled to the mountain resort amid concerns his legacy has been irrevocably tarnished.

“Nobody needs to cry for me. I’m going to be great,” Armstrong told reporters.

“I have five great kids and a wonderful lady in my life. My foundation is unaffected by all the noise out there.

“I think people understand that we’ve got a lot of stuff to do going forward. That’s what I’m focused on and I think people are supportive of that. It’s great to be out here,” he said.

Despite giving up the fight against the charges, Armstrong has maintained his innocence and railed against what he says is an unfair witch-hunt.

The Texas-born cyclist, who famously beat cancer and whose foundation Livestrong has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the fight against the disease, has retained major sponsors and enjoyed the backing of many key cycling figures.

Others, including WADA chief John Fahey, say his failure to contest his charges can only mean he is a drug cheat who has defrauded the cycling tour, his rivals and millions of sports fans for over a decade.

The Armstrong case has yet to rest, with cycling’s global governing body, the International Cycling Union, demanding USADA hand over its evidence. The Court of Arbitration for Sport could ultimately have a final say on his guilt or innocence.

The retired Armstrong said he was no longer concerned about racing.

“It’s more about staying fit and coming out here and enjoying one of the most beautiful parts of the world, on a beautiful day, on a very hard course,” said the 40-year-old.

“Some may say you’re a little sick to spend your free time doing stuff like this. I had a good time.”

Armstrong remained the ‘seven-time Tour champ’ to teenager Swirbul. “I’m so psyched right now,” he said. “I wanted to win this race so bad.”

Donations to his foundation on Friday were up more than 20 times their daily average, Livestrong staff said, and Armstrong received positive crowd support in Colorado.

“The people like the people who are standing around here or on the course, they voiced their opinion in the last 48 hours and are going to support us,” Armstrong said, adding that the future of cycling was in good shape.

“It’s cool to get your butt kicked by a 16-year-old when you know he has a bright future,” he said.

“There are a lot of good young guys. Cycling is going to be fine.”

(Reporting by Ben Everill; Editing by Ian Ransom)

Armstrong ‘protected’ from 2005 hotel raid – lawyer


Now all of the dirty laundry will be exposed… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

AFP – Sat, Aug 25, 2012

Lance Armstrong, branded a drug cheat and banned from cycling by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), narrowly escaped a police raid on his hotel during the 2005 Tour de France because he was being “protected in France”, a French lawyer has claimed.

US cycling icon and cancer survivor Armstrong is set to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after he gave up the right to fight serious doping claims by the USADA at an independent hearing.

A day after a report in Le Monde newspaper claimed Armstrong had been forewarned of doping controls — theoretically allowing the American to circumvent potential positive tests — French lawyer Thibault de Montbrial said evidence suggested he had also benefited from top level protection in France.

According to De Montbrial, a hotel at which Armstrong and his team were staying during the race’s second rest day in Pau in 2005 was set to be raided by police looking for evidence of elaborate doping substances and methods, only for the operation to be aborted at the last minute.

De Montbrial, a lawyer involved in investigating the fallout from the Festina affair which saw the 1998 Tour de Frace descend into farce, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper: “I know that during the Tour de France in 2005, on the second rest day at Pau, the team of Lance Armstrong came within an inch of having its hotel searched.

“A French investigation detail came from Paris to carry out a raid. But I have it on good authority that around five in the afternoon, when they were in front of the hotel, the investigators were told to abort. The scheduled operation was called off at the last minute.

“I do not know who gave the order… But I do know the investigators were furious at having to turn on their heels. The evidence (suggests) Lance Armstrong was indeed protected in France,” the lawyer asserted.

On Saturday Michel Rieu, the scientific adviser to France’s national anti-doping agency the AFLD claimed Armstrong was “warned before all doping controls”.

“The inspectors had a lot of trouble carrying out random checks. Armstrong was always tipped off in advance, so he still had twenty minutes to cover his tracks,” Rieu told the paper.

“He could thin his blood or replace his urine. He used the EPO (erythropoietin) only in small quantities, so it was no longer there to detect. We were powerless against this.”

EPO is a banned hormone which, thanks to its blood-boosting capabilities, has been used by many endurance athletes over the past 20 years.

USADA said Friday Armstrong will forfeit all titles, medals and prizes earned from August 1, 1998, including his Tour titles from 1999-2005 and the Olympic bronze medal he won in Sydney in 2000.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) and the Tour de France organisers have, for the moment, appeared to stall on the issue.

The UCI said it would make no comment until USADA, in accordance with the rules of the World Anti-Doping Code, issues a “reasoned decision explaining the action taken” to all the parties involved including Armstrong, the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Tour de France organisers said they were waiting on the “relevant authorities, USADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI)” to rule on the issue before making any comment.

Armstrong surprised many by announcing after USADA’s statement that he would not fight to clear himself of the official charges levied by USADA through independent arbitration.

Sceptics say the 40-year-old American’s decision was logical because at a hearing he faced hearing the public testimony of former teammates and associates who have already given evidence about him.

USADA also insists it has scientific evidence pointing to doping by the Texan.

Armstrong, who finishing second in the Power of Four mountain bike race in Colorado on Saturday, insisted afterwards that “I’m more at ease now than I’ve been in 10 years,” and said his cancer foundation, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the disease, would remain “unaffected by all the noise out there.”

How Did Armstrong Get Busted?


As stated before on numerous occasions on this Blog, it was inevitable that Lance Armstrong would eventually be stripped of his Tour de France titles. Quite frankly, it is surprising that it has taken this much time to prove that he is guilty of doping. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: LiveScience

By Eli MacKinnon, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer | LiveScience.com – Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong has announced that he will no longer fight accusations from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his historic cycling career. Though the seven-time Tour de France winner still asserts his innocence, he now faces the loss of all the titles and associated prize money he has won since 1998. But what set Armstrong’s epic fall from grace in motion and why is it culminating now?

Why did authorities suspect Armstrong of doping in the first place?

Anyone who emerges from a bout with cancer to make a record-obliterating run on one of the world’s premier sporting events is sure to draw skepticism, so it’s not surprising that Armstrong has contended with allegations of doping for more than a decade. But his unprecedented domination was not the only source of suspicion. Even in 1999, the year of his first Tour de France win, there were already objective suggestions that Armstrong’s success may not have been entirely on the up and up. That year, his urine sample showed a small trace of a banned steroid used to assist muscle recovery, but he was cleared when his team produced a medical certificate showing that the chemical was present in a cream Armstrong used for “saddle sores.”

In 2005, a French newspaper reported that Armstrong’s 1999 urine samples had retroactively tested positive for the “blood booster” Erythropoietin (EPO), a banned substance that couldn’t yet be detected in urine tests in 1999. But because the 2005 urine tests were not conducted according to official standards, the results had no effect on Armstrong’s standing.

Most damaging to Armstrong’s claims to innocence has been mounting testimony from former teammates and associates who say they have witnessed or shared in Armstrong’s alleged doping practices. Indeed, the USADA case that caused Armstrong to back down from arbitration rests in large part on a group of 10 former teammates who the agency says will testify to having firsthand knowledge of Armstrong’s doping.

What types of drugs did Armstrong allegedly use?

The USADA accuses Armstrong of using EPO, human growth hormone, testosterone, anti-inflammatory steroids and various masking agents used to cover up his other alleged abuses. The agency claims to have physical evidence for Armstrong’s supposed “blood doping,” a practice designed to boost an athlete’s red blood cell count that can either involve blood transfusions or the use of synthetic EPO.

What is EPO and what do blood transfusions have to do with athletic success?

EPO is a naturally occurring hormone in humans that regulates the production of red blood cells and — because red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body — determines a person’s oxygen-carrying capacity. A surge of red blood cells will temporarily supercharge an athlete’s ability to deliver oxygen to muscles and thereby improve his or her endurance.

Without using synthetic EPO, cheating athletes can increase their red blood cells by temporarily extracting a unit of blood a few weeks before an event, waiting for their body to naturally recoup the missing red blood cells and then transfusing the backup unit into their bloodstream when they want a boost.

The USADA has accused Armstrong of using both methods of blood doping. Their claim is based on blood tests from 2009 and 2010 that they say are “fully consistent” with blood doping.

If the USADA has blood tests showing that Armstrong practiced blood doping in 2009 and 2010, does he have any grounds to continue to deny their allegations?

Because synthetic EPO is nearly identical to the hormone that naturally occurs in athletes’ urine, it is notoriously hard to test for. A testing method capable of distinguishing synthetic EPO was not developed until 2000, and since then, athletes have successfully argued that it has yielded false positives.

There is still no sure test to detect a blood transfusion consisting of the athlete’s own blood, and in suspected cases of non-synthetic blood doping, determinations of guilt are based on observed overabundances in red blood cells. Judgments like these can easily be called into question by athletes and sometimes explained by natural variations in red blood cell production.

It is not clear whether the USADA’s claim of having tests “fully consistent” with blood doping rests on a positive test for synthetic EPO or on observations of anomalous red blood cell levels. The wording of their claim, that they have data “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions,” suggests a degree of uncertainty about what conclusions can be drawn from the tests.

Is it a sure thing that Armstrong will be stripped of all of his titles and prize money now that he’s stopped fighting the USADA’s charges?

The International Cycling Union (UCI), the world governing body for sports cycling, disputed the USADA’s authority to arbitrate the doping case, so it is still theoretically possible that the cycling union will appeal the USADA’s ruling.

The UCI says it will withhold comment on Armstrong’s USADA-mandated suspension until the agency has submitted a “reasoned decision” to the body, as they are obligated to do by the World Anti-Doping Code. In turn, the International Olympic Committee said that it will await decisions from the USADA and UCI before deciding whether to revoke Armstrong’s bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has said that the cycling union is “bound to recognize our decision and impose it.”

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover or Life’s Little Mysteries @llmysteries. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

Who’ll get Armstrong’s Tour titles? No easy answer


It’s really a shame that cycling, which happens to be one of my favorite sports, is so ripe for the use of performance enhancing drugs. It is such a grueling sport at the professional level that participants will take all kinds of risks with drugs, hoping not to get caught of course, in an effort to compete. This is one sport which may never be completely clean.

As for Lance Armstrong, it really is a no-brainer that he was “on something.” No one can win 7 straight Tours against superior athletes, who by the way were also doping, unless one is also taking shortcuts. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By JAMEY KEATEN | Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — With Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, simple logic might suggest that his runners-up from 1999 to 2005 would just inherit them, right?

Not so fast.

The doping-dazed sport of cycling has a logic all its own, and nearly all of the Texan’s second-place finishers had their own issues, cases, admissions or suspicions about drug use or cheating at one point or another.

It makes for no easy choices for cycling’s authorities and historians.

The International Cycling Union, UCI, has control on the record books, but has declined to comment until it learns of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s reasons for stripping Armstrong of his Tour titles on Friday. Tour organizers were even more mum, deferring to the UCI and USADA in a two-sentence statement.

It could take months, or years, to iron out. But a guessing game has already erupted about who will — or should — inherit Armstrong’s titles, and whether cycling chiefs might try to clean the slate once and for all.

Pierre Bordry, a former head of the French anti-doping agency, suggested the sport’s authorities should use the chance to send the message that cycling is clearing the wreckage deep in its doping past.

“When he’s stripped of his titles — if they do — from Mr. Armstrong … they’re not necessarily required to give them to someone else,” he told France-Info radio. “It’s very clear that the titles of Tour de France champion mustn’t be awarded to people who faced suspicion that they were doped, or who were.”

Former Armstrong rival Filippo Simeoni of Italy told The Associated Press that the succession issue was “a good question. That entire decade was one big bluff.”

Road-race cycling, one of the world’s most grueling endurance sports, has been plagued by drug use and other cheating ever since the first Tour in 1903 — when competitors juiced up on wine, cocaine, wine, even strychnine, to get a lift in the nearly inhuman three-week race.

Modern, high-tech medicine and the lure of riches and fame in an increasingly global sport tempted many to try to cheat over the last 15 years or so. At the same time, sport authorities — responding in part to criticism from fans — have cracked down with tougher penalties and anti-doping controls, which in part explains the upsurge in scandals.

It’s hard to come by an exhaustive and definitive list of cyclists and teams involved in doping cases, but many experts believe the Tour peloton was more rife with drugs cheats in the 1990s and early 2000s than today. Few experts believe that cycling is clean, and the Tour this year was marred by two doping-related cases.

The dilemma for sport historians stems in part from lax, ineffective or nonexistent doping controls in previous years. For example, a test for blood booster EPO — the longtime designer-drug for cyclists — was only approved by the International Olympic Committee and UCI in 2000, but it was believed to be widely used in the peloton in the 1990s.

Even when riders were caught or admitted to doping, the penalties weren’t as severe as they would be today. Take 1999, the year of Armstrong’s first win. His runner-up was Swiss rider Alex Zulle, who a year earlier had admitted to having taken EPO for the previous four years. Under today’s rules, he would not have been allowed to ride in 1999. He made the admission only after his Festina team was caught in a huge 1998 scandal seen as a watershed moment in the fight against doping in cycling.

Jan Ullrich of Germany, the 1997 Tour winner and a three-time runner-up to Armstrong, was the biggest-name cyclist among at least 50 implicated in the “Operation Puerto” police investigation in Spain in 2006. Only this past February, he received a two-year ban from the Court of Arbitration for Sport in that case, though he retired years ago. He also served a six-month ban following a positive test in 2002 for amphetamines.

Like the Festina case, Puerto again exposed the breadth of doping in cycling — either before or after some riders’ best Tour performances. The 2002 runner-up, Joseba Beloki of Spain, was also implicated, but was reportedly cleared later by a Spanish court of any involvement. Ivan Basso of Italy, the 2005 runner-up, served a two-year ban linked to the Puerto case.

The 2004 runner-up was Andreas Kloeden of Germany. In 2009, an independent German probe alleged his Telekom and T-Mobile teams engaged in systematic blood doping from 1995 to 2006, and that he used illegal blood transfusions during the 2006 Tour. Kloeden, who like Basso is still competing professionally, has repeatedly denied doping.

Many factors determine how the record books might be tweaked.

In 2007, Bjarne Riis of Denmark admitted to using EPO, growth hormones and cortisone on his way to victory in the Tour in 1996 — more than a decade after the fact. The Tour’s history book left him as its winner but puts an asterisk next to his name, because “at the time of this admission, the statute of limitations had run out.” The World Anti-Doping Code has an eight-year statute of limitations on doping offenses.

French newspaper Liberation on Friday posited its unofficial estimate about “potential winners” based on a sweeping calculation that excluded any rider who tested positive, was implicated in doping, or even had contact with teams or doctors suspected of banned practices during the Armstrong era.

For example, the newspaper claimed little-known Italian Daniele Nardello was the highest-placed rider in the 2000 Tour never implicated in any doping or suspicion — and he finished 10th that year.

The daily also suggested the 2002 title could go to Carlos Sastre, the 10th-place finisher that year, and another for 2004 when he placed eighth. The Spaniard did win the Tour outright in 2008 — a race riddled with doping scandals. Also by Liberation’s reckoning, Cadel Evans of Australia, who won the 2011 Tour, would also have won in 2005, when he was eighth.

Tour officials have scrubbed the history books before.

This year, Andy Schleck of Luxembourg inherited the 2010 title in a ceremony in his home country — off the glamorous Champs-Elysees backdrop where the Tour finishes each year — after Spain’s Alberto Contador lost it in a doping case.

Before that, in 2007, after American Floyd Landis became the first cyclist to lose a Tour title for doping, race chiefs traveled to Spain to hand over the 2006 yellow jersey to his runner-up, Oscar Pereiro.

In a small but symbolic ceremony at Spain’s Sports Ministry, Tour President Christian Prudhomme hailed Pereiro as “a late winner, but … a real winner.”

How times were simpler then: Now it’s up to cycling’s bosses to determine the “real winner” of the races still listed as Armstrong victories.

___

AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed from Ponza, Italy

Armstrong facing loss of 7 Tour de France titles


I always believed it would come to this… There was no way in my mind that Armstrong could win seven consecutive tour titles against more naturally gifted cyclists, many of which were also doping. It just comes down to a matter of common sense. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By JIM VERTUNO (AP Sports Writer) | The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Never one to back away from a fight, Lance Armstrong is finally giving in and the cost of quitting is steep: His seven Tour de France titles could be gone as soon as Friday.

The superstar cyclist, whose stirring victories after his comeback from cancer helped him transcend sports, chose not to pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That was his last option in his bitter fight with USADA and his decision set the stage for the titles to be stripped and his name to be all but wiped from the record books of the sport he once ruled.

Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, left no doubt that was the next step. He said Armstrong would lose the titles as soon as Friday and be hit with a lifetime ban, even though he is retired and turning 41 next month.

Still to be heard from was the sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong’s legal challenge to USADA’s authority. Tygart said the UCI was ”bound to recognize our decision and impose it” as a signer of the World Anti-Doping Code.

”They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code,” he said.

Armstrong clearly knew his legacy would be blemished by his decision. He said he has grown tired of defending himself in a seemingly never-ending fight against charges that he doped while piling up more Tour victories than anyone ever. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he passed as proof of his innocence during his extraordinary run of Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.

”There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said Thursday night, hours before the deadline to enter arbitration. He called the USADA investigation an ”unconstitutional witch hunt.”

”I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” he said. ”The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.”

USADA treated Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation’s support for cancer research. Armstrong could lose other awards, event titles and cash earnings, and the International Olympic Committee might look at the bronze medal he won in the 2000 Games.

”It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes,” Tygart said. ”It’s a heartbreaking example of win-at-all-costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There’s no success in cheating to win.”

Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s longtime coach, said the Texan is a victim of a legal process run amok.

”Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been,” Bruyneel wrote on his personal website.

While Tygart said the agency can strip the Tour titles, Armstrong disputed that, insisting his decision is not an admission of guilt but a refusal to enter an arbitration process he believes is unfair.

”USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,” he said. ”I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours.”

Armstrong’s comments notwithstanding, USADA has exercised its power to sanction athletes and strip their results regularly. Its website shows that it has issued 21 sanctions in 2012 so far in sports ranging from cycling to track to boxing to judo, with 17 of the athletes losing their results.

Armstrong walked away from the sport for good in 2011 without being charged following a two-year federal criminal investigation into many of the same accusations he faces from USADA.

The federal probe was closed in February, but USADA announced in June it had evidence Armstrong used banned substances and methods – and encouraged their use by teammates. The agency also said it had blood tests from 2009 and 2010 that were ”fully consistent” with blood doping.

Included in USADA’s evidence were emails written by Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after a positive drug test. Landis’ emails to a USA Cycling official detailed allegations of a complex doping program on the team.

USADA also said it had 10 former Armstrong teammates ready to testify against him. Other than suggesting they include Landis and Tyler Hamilton, both of whom have admitted to doping offenses, the agency has refused to say who they are or specifically what they would say.

USADA maintains that Armstrong used banned substances as far back as 1996, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids, as well as blood transfusions.

”There is zero physical evidence to support (the) outlandish and heinous claims,” Armstrong said. ”The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of (doping) controls I have passed with flying colors.”

Armstrong sued USADA in Austin, Texas, where he lives, in an attempt to block the case and was supported by the UCI. A judge threw out the case on Monday, siding with USADA despite questioning the agency’s pursuit of Armstrong in his retirement.

”USADA’s conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives,” such as politics or publicity, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote.

The ultra-competitive Armstrong still had the option to press his innocence in arbitration, which would have included a hearing during which evidence against him would have been presented. But the cyclist has said he believes most people have already made up their minds about whether he’s a fraud or a persecuted hero.

And so he did something virtually unthinkable for him: He quit before a fight was over, a stunning move for an athlete who built his reputation on not only beating cancer, but forcing himself through grueling offseason workouts no one else could match, then crushing his rivals in the Alps and the Pyrenees.

”Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances,” he said. ”I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities.”

Although he had already been crowned a world champion and won individual stages at the Tour de France, Armstrong was still relatively unknown in the U.S. until he won the epic race for the first time in 1999. It was the ultimate comeback tale: When diagnosed with cancer, doctors had given him less than a 50 percent chance of survival before surgery and brutal cycles of chemotherapy saved his life.

Armstrong’s riveting victories, his work for cancer awareness and his gossip-page romances with rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch and actress Kate Hudson made him a figure who transcended sports.

His dominance of the Tour de France elevated the sport’s popularity in the U.S. to unprecedented levels. His story and success helped sell millions of the ”Livestrong” plastic yellow wrist bracelets, and enabled him to enlist lawmakers and global policymakers to promote cancer awareness and research. His Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly $500 million since its founding in 1997.

Jeffery C. Gervey, chairman of the foundation, issued a statement of support.

”Faced with a biased process whose outcome seems predetermined, Lance chose to put his family and his foundation first,” Gervey said. ”The leadership of the Lance Armstrong Foundation remain incredibly proud of our founder’s achievements, both on and off the bike.”

Questions surfaced even as Armstrong was on his way to his first Tour victory. He was leading the 1999 race when a trace amount of a banned anti-inflammatory corticosteroid was found in his urine; cycling officials said he was authorized to use a small amount of a cream to treat saddle sores.

After Armstrong’s second victory in 2000, French judicial officials investigated his Postal Service team for drug use. That investigation ended with no charges, but the allegations kept coming.

Others close to Armstrong were caught up in the investigations, too: Bruyneel, the coach of Armstrong’s teams, and three members of the medical staff and a consultant were also charged. Bruyneel is taking his case to arbitration, while two medical team staffers and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari didn’t formally contest the charges and were issued lifetime bans by USADA. Ferrari later said he was innocent.

Armstrong was criticized for his relationship with Ferrari, who was banned by Italian authorities over doping charges in 2002. Former personal and team assistants accused Armstrong of having steroids in an apartment in Spain and disposing of syringes that were used for injections.

In 2004, a Dallas-based promotions company initially refused to pay him a $5 million bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France because it wanted to investigate allegations raised by media in Europe. Testimony in that case included former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, saying Armstrong told doctors during his 1996 cancer treatments that he had taken a cornucopia of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

Two books published in Europe, ”L.A. Confidential” and ”L.A. Official,” also raised doping allegations and, in 2005, French magazine L’Equipe reported that retested urine samples from the 1999 Tour showed EPO use.

Armstrong fought every accusation with denials and, in some cases, lawsuits against media outlets that reported them.

He retired in 2005 and almost immediately considered a comeback before deciding to stay on the sidelines – in part because he didn’t want to keep answering doping questions. Three years later, Armstrong was 36 and itching to ride again. He came back to finish third in the 2009 Tour de France.

Armstrong raced again in 2010 under the cloud of the federal investigation. Early last year, he quit for good, making a brief return as a triathlete until the USADA investigation shut him down.

”He had a right to contest the charges,” WADA President John Fahey said after Armstrong’s announcement. ”He chose not to. The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance in them.”

AP National Writer Eddie Pells and AP Sports Writer Dennis Passa contributed to this report.

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