Friday, October 28, 2005

WHITE SOX BASKING IN GLOW OF THE FIRST TITLE SINCE 1917


The merriment in Chicago city is going on in full swing. It’s been only two days, the White Sox swept Houston for their first World Series title since 1917and the team is all set to hit the streets Friday for a ticker-tape parade and rally. This is a special moment for the city of Chicago. Moreover, the victory is sounding even sweeter because nobody expected the team to break the 88-year drought. The Chicago Cubs who are also a classic example of not winning a World Series since 1908 can learn that lesson from their crosstown rival. But the way the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox tried and made it, the Cubs will also make it. The fans didn’t miss any opportunity to see the glimpse of their favorite superstars when the arrived back to the city. Mark Buehrle greeted his fans by thrusting his arms triumphantly into the air. Manager Ozzie Guillen’s limousine was mobbed by the fans as it slowed down. Many bakeries decorated special cupcakes. And at several sporting good stores, lines snaked around the block as fans waited to buy T-shirts, hats and jerseys. Several costume shops are doing a good selling black and white face paint — the team’s colors. Around Halloween, the sale of team’s replica jersey will get soared.

THE WHITE SOX ARE THE FALL CLASSIC WINNERS AFTER 88 YEARS


Coming off their first World Series title after 1917, it is a time for the fans, the team, and the nation to feel jubilant, to hit the streets for a ticker-tape parade and rally. Just a year ago, the same story line awestruck baseball when the Red Sox swept St. Louis to capture their first title in 86 years. The victory of these two teams has left only one team with a similar classic streak of futility - the Cubs, who are the losers since 1908. Now the White Sox won’t be anymore remembered for Shoeless Joe Jackson's Black Sox scandal. World Series MVP Jermaine Dye broke a scoreless tie with a single in the eighth inning as the Chicago White Sox ended an 88-year championship drought with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros, completing a four-game sweep. The White Sox followed the same format they did all season - dominant pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.

BEST-WORST SCENARIO

The nagging injuries of the players often change the course of the team’s destiny. For instance it was only few weeks’ back a Pacific Division crown was a sure thing for the Suns. But with Amare Stoudemire's unexpected knee surgery keeping, the superstar was sidelined for at least four months. With four talented teams all residing in the state of California, the Suns' road to the postseason now looks perturbed. There's traffic everywhere and it's difficult to know when it will clear. The other four teams in the division is talented enough to win the Pacific, yet the injuries caused to their superstars need to be answered. In case of the Sacramento Kings Peja Stojakovic returned to his form and became one of the league's most feared players two seasons ago. The Kings use their Arco Arena advantage to win the vast majority of their home games, and they ease past the Suns to win the division. But the worst was Rahim's knee – which kept New Jersey from signing. Without a great defense to fall back on, Sacramento fades back into the pack. But the Kings can still win a lot of games if they are assisted by a relatively untested bench. The Lakers Kobe Bryant enjoys an MVP-type season and Lamar Odom has become the Lakers' version of Scottie Pippen. But the worst is yet to mention; Bryant suffers through an injury-plagued season, Odom isn't comfortable in the triangle offense. L.A. has missed the playoffs for the second season in a row. The probability is if the rest of the division slumps, the Lakers will definitely rise to stardom. The Golden State Warriors has returned to the postseason for the first time in 12 years, but the injury trouble has taken its toll. Without Davis the talented corps of wing players struggles to mesh that has let the Warriors to stagger. The Los Angles Clippers Shawn Livingston becomes a star at the point, Elton Brand has dominated league and the Clippers' surfeit of shooters complements the two of them. The Clips become the best team in L.A., and they earned a berth in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. But Livingston can't stay healthy and coach Mike Dunleavy can't figure out how to let so many offensive-minded people to play together. The only ray of hope is if Dunleavy can achieve his goal of having his team make the extra pass consistently, this could be a dangerous team.

THE PASSING OF A GIANT

Football is a business known more for covetousness than a vow to the common good. Wellington T. Mara's decision that he took almost 4 years back on how the NFL should distribute its spoils remains not merely a variance in professional sports, but also continues to be the legacy that allows the league to flourish. Mara, who was the co-owner of the New York Giants, who willingly approved in the early 1960s that the league should equally divide money from the sale of television rights, breathed his last on October 26, 2005 at the age of 89. He died from cancer at his home in Rye, N.Y. Wellington when he was 14 and his brother Jack when he was 22 received the legacy of the team, which began a storied career in ownership. Mara was involved in every aspect of operating the Giants during his eight decades with the team. The only break in Mara’s Giants career was during World War II, when he like a true civilian served for more than three years in the Navy, seeing action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters aboard aircraft carriers and emerging as a Lieutenant Commander.

It was Mara’s decision only that all NFL franchises, including ones from small markets, such as Green Bay, would have an opportunity to compete with teams from much larger markets, such as New York. His decision became more notable when it came at the expense of its own franchise, whose worth would have rocketed if it had sold exclusive broadcast rights to what was then the league's flagship team. Wellington’s father died in 1959 and Jack in 1965. Jack's son, also named Tim, inherited his father's share of the team, but Wellington Mara and his nephew began a feud that coincided with some of the team's most dismal seasons. His nephew, Tim sold his share of the Giants to Robert Tisch in 1991, but still the grace and enamor of Wellington Mara remained same. He was still the hallmark ownership figure of the franchise.

TODD BERTUZZI JEERED IN HIS FIRST TRIP TO COLORADO


Avalanche right winger Milan Hejduk recorded his 200th career goal on Thursday to give Colorado a 6-2 win over Vancouver and obviously Bertuzzi, who was booed all night in his first game in Denver since breaking former Avalanche forward Steve Moore's neck. The noisy crowd became so peevish that they wasted no time in heaping abuse on Bertuzzi in his return to the Pepsi Centre. Bertuzzi after this unintended heinous act looked drained and nervous, as if waiting for the Colorado fans to forgive him for his hit that may have ended Steve Moore's career. It was Bertuzzi's first game in Denver since his March 8, 2004, punch from behind that broke bones in Moore's neck. Moore's hockey career remains in doubt because of post-concussion symptoms. Bertuzzi, cheap shot that he delivered on Moore in a game late in the 2003-04 season, acquired the kind of wrath this city's sports fans have for the Detroit Red Wings and Oakland Raiders. Now, the Canucks are also on their despicable list. The Canucks booed with Bertuzzi with the chants of ''Bertuzzi sucks'' as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The Canucks were however not stimulated by the ugly chants that surrounded the game, but how would you comment their Thursday’s loss. The Avalanche players seemed to take delight in unloading on Bertuzzi. During the pre-game skate two men in orange overalls - one with `Bertuzzi county jail' written on the back - stood by the glass near the Canuck goal. Every time Bertuzzi skated by they butted in to humiliate him and to interrupt him. The Canucks and Avalanche play again in Denver on Saturday night in a game shown on Hockey Night in Canada.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WNBA MVP SHERYL SWOOPES TIRED OF HIDING HER FEELINGS

Three-time Olympic gold medalist WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes has announced she is gay. Swoopes, a forward with the Houston Comets is just at a point her life where she is tired of having to pretend to be somebody she is not. Male athletes of her caliber probably feel like they have a lot more to lose than gain if they open their feelings publicly. Swoopes, 34, is the most recognizable athlete, male or female, to come out in a team sport. In July 2004, she was publicly acknowledged as a lesbian. Prior to her former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo and MLB outfielder Billy Bean hit headlines when they revealed they were gay, but both were retired when they made their announcements and neither had a career that comes close to Swoopes. In 1996 Swoopes became a member of the Olympic gold medal-winning team that became the building block for the WNBA. Since then, she has won two more Olympic gold medals, four WNBA championships and three regular-season MVP accolades. She is a five-time All-WNBA First Team honoree who was the All-Star MVP this past season. She is also the first female athlete to have a shoe named after her, Nike's Air Swoopes. The news of Swoopes turning gay is particularly perplexing for the WNBA, which has struggled to both recognize the homosexual element connected to its league and grow its fan base, but love is blind and sexuality and gender are not of anybody’s concern. The thing that matters is the performance.

SMOLTZ IS THE RECIPIENT OF CLEMENTE AWARD

John Smoltz has become the recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award for fineness on the field and in the community. The Atlanta Braves pitcher received the award by baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Roberto Clemente Jr. before the start of Game 3 of the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros. The premier honor of his career is truly the greatest award that a player can achieve. Smoltz comeback has helped the Braves win their record 14th division title in a row, but unfortunately Braves were eliminated in the first round of the NL playoffs with an 18-inning loss at Minute Maid Park, which was also the longest game in postseason history. This is also the first World Series game he ever attended that didn't play in. Robert Clemente’s career came to an end when he died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while he was on his way to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

The achiever of the Robert Clemente award is nominated by a committee that includes Selig and Vera Clemente, Roberto's wife. John has had an outstanding career on the field of play, and equally contributed his best off the field. John’s wife Dyane has contributed to the Atlanta community. In short the good deeds of the couple have been commendable and keeping with the tradition of the man for whom this award is named. The 38-year-old Smoltz has spent all 17 of his major league seasons with Atlanta. He won the 1996 NL Cy Young Award as a starter. Smoltz and his wife formed the John and Dyan Smoltz Foundation in 1997.

NBA FIGURES UNDER PRESSURE

Every season there are some players and coaches who take their share of responsibility, which can also be termed as work pressure. For instance, Lakers Kwame Brown due to his size and athleticism is expected a terrific performance from his teammates. Flip Saunders has replaced the legendary Larry Brown, who led the Detroit Pistons to one title and a near-miss. Anything less than an Eastern Conference championship will be considered a failure by Detroit fans. Ron Artest. Made the things far more complicated for himself when he announced that he wanted to play like a "caged animal." He is under the burden of trying to lead the Indiana Pacers to a championship while also dealing with the after-effects of last season's brawl and suspension. Kobe Bryant Is expected to face a critical year. Not only he has to win the games but also win back his fans. Along with he has to sustain his goodwill and his play. Kevin Garnett is expected to carry his team back to the playoffs. His knee trouble has kept him from practicing much last season, but still he is one of the game's best players. Phil Jackson has always been questioned by his critics whether he would be able to coach a team without enormous talent. For the first time since Michael Jordan decided to play baseball in 1993, Jackson will lead a team without at least two superstars. Now Johnson has to prove his critics wrong. Deron Williams is expected to fill John Stockton’s shoes, and is expected to assist Utah get back to the playoffs and that too all in his first NBA season. Rafer Alston became the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets, a team with championship aspirations. Alston will have to adjust to the demanding ways of the team. Stan Van Gundy must lead this team to the Finals – at least – in order to be considered a success and will have to carve a niche for himself in the star-studded roster. Isiah Thomas is certainly a super hit for the New York Knicks. He put together this team and hired Larry Brown to coach it.

SEE SEE WHO IS THEIR ON THE BLOCK PLAYING FOR RAVENS

Jamal Lewis has experienced how it feels to be in the cellar of ambiguity. He has experienced something that a lot of people don't want to experience and shouldn't ever experience. But the glamorous lifestyle to which he belongs where the fans and people feed your ego, he has been low as can be. There are far worse positions in which to find one's self than 27th in rushing, as Lewis does at this moment, or in last place in the AFC North, a division that not long ago he dominated. Lewis' is also made to bend over so the guards can inspect his bottom for smuggled materials. Lewis isn't satisfied with his or the Ravens' start to what was expected to be a season in which they would challenge Pittsburgh for the division title and he would return to his form of two years ago. Lewis, who missed four games last season because of a league-mandated suspension and injuries, was named 2003's AP Offensive Player of the Year. In the World, where the convicts wear khakis, T-shirts, and Timbs, but for Lewis, those were his only fashion options while in prison. Had the case gone to trial, Lewis would have faced a minimum 10 years if convicted on conspiracy, but he came out in a gap of 4 months giving other dudes a reason to feel jealous for. It was only two seasons ago was widely considered to be among the game's best running backs. But now when he has tolerated some of life's worst circumstances, it doesn't seem to matter as much, the only concern is now he will prevail or not.

PREDATORS STILL CREEPING AROUND

The Nashville Predators are two short of establishing the NHL record for wins at the start of a season as set by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs. They made their enigma work against the Chicago Blackhawks to record their season-opening eighth straight victory. Paul Kariya had a goal and an assist, Tomas Vokoun made a season-high 38 saves and the Predators scored three first-period goals in their 5-3 victory Tuesday night. The Predators, two off the NHL record of 10 straight wins at the start of a season matched the second-longest streak in league history. The 1934-35 Maple Leafs and 1975-76 Buffalo Sabres also opened with eight wins in a row. The Predators played the 500th game in franchise history, which was the 499th game for Trotz, who missed a game in his first season with the team to attend a funeral. With Ottawa's loss to Carolina on Monday night, Nashville is the NHL's lone unbeaten team.

Monday, October 24, 2005

JOHN IS OUT OF TRI-NATIONS

Australia half-back Andrew Johns is forced to miss the remainder of the Gillette Tri-Nations Series due to a relentless knee injury. His injury was aggravated during his recent 28-26 win over New Zealand and after undergoing various scans, he was ruled out of the British leg of the competition. His injured knee is the same that was totally reconstructed last season after he ruptured the cruciate ligament in an NRL match against the Eels at Parramatta Stadium. Australia will name a replacement for Johns on Tuesday. In the absence of Johns, coach Wayne Bennett has made the duo Trent Barrett and Craig Gower available to partner skipper Darren Lockyer, with uncapped Scott Prince as back-up.

SCOTT PODSEDNIK: AN EXTRAVAGANZA FOR THE WHITE SOX


Podsednik who didn't have any home runs in 507 regular-season at-bats hit his first of the season in the division series opener against Boston. But the story of his victory didn’t end there. He made two electrifying home runs for the White Sox - and two World Series wins giving White Sox a 2-0 lead. Podsednik's home run came off Brad Lidge in the ninth inning giving the White Sox thrilling 7-6 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday night. This victory has put the White Sox halfway home to their first World Series title in 88 years. He did something that was least expected from him. Podsednik emerged out as the most unlikely hero. His play against the Lidge, who hadn't pitched since losing Game 5 of the NL championship series against St. Louis; Lidge gave up a mammoth three-run homer to Albert Pujols in the ninth inning that made his teammates comment upon as an airplane cruising altitude hit. This hit one wasn't as long as projected, but yes it was just as damaging. Damaging in the sense that Podsednik lobbed the ball to right-center field, and players and fans craned to see whether it would clear the fence. When it did, Chicago players poured out of the dugout to greet Podsednik at the plate.

FOLLOW THE TRAIL AS SET BY THE LEADERS

More or less, the Heats’ performance this season was much like last season. This season they won the Southeast by 14 games and went 15-1 within the division. Had President Pat Riley retained most of his roster in spite of choosing for a daring offseason change that could have either put the Heat over the top in the Eastern Conference or would have prove to be a bad chemistry trial. After Riley’s team finished a few plays away from reaching the NBA Finals, he added Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, Jason Williams and James Posey and let the Heat's top long-range shooters in starters Eddie Jones and Damon Jones and reserve Rasual Butle go. He probably failed to trade for a second basketball, as a result his club teamed with offensive talent -- Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. The team managed to survive the refurbishment. Considering the competition between Stan Van Gundy and Riley, the Heat's favorable November schedule -- or an extended run of poor play would only stimulate the conjecture about Riley's replacing Van Gundy. Van Gundy will need to be a tactician. He would have to persuade Payton and Walker, two cocksure veterans who have combined for 1,852 starts in 1,873 career regular-season games, to embrace reserve roles. He would have to keep the moody Williams in line if the point guard sits in crunch time as he often did in Memphis, and above all would have to become that much capable that he should be able to win big in the regular season while holding the 33-year-old center's minutes in check.

UGLY SEASON OF INJURIES

One thing that is very apparent with the NFL players this season is their increasing number of injuries. Though it has been discussed earlier but I would love to mention that Sunday was also no exception, as the injury creepy-crawly reared its hideous head once again. The players that were forced to leave the game due to injuries were RB Ahman Green and WR Robert Ferguson. Both of these players were carted off the field in their 23-20 loss to the Vikings. Another set of players who became the victim of injury was the Raiders DB Charles Woodson who broke his leg and DB Derrick Gibson dislocated his wrist in the team's 38-17 victory over the Bills. Lions WR Kevin Johnson was nagged by a season-ending Achilles' injury in the team's 13-10 win over the Browns. Miami Dolphins safety Tebucky Jones had surgery to repair a torn right chest muscle, and is expected to miss the rest of the season. He was injured in Miami's 30-20 loss to Kansas City, and had 24 tackles and two sacks in six games this season.

NFL should take some action to keep in check these season nagging injuries of their players.

LEAF SQUAD ELATED TO SEE JERSEY #88 IN TORONTO

Another prospective for a MVP honor, we'll unexpected always happen. Eric Lindros eventually has fulfilled what many consider his destiny. He has become a Maple Leaf. And against the conditions of modest expectations, including a modest salary, he has quickly become a dominant player and a team leader. Can anyone imagine what might have happened if Eric Lindros had landed in Toronto back in March 2001. Would the team have carried home the team's first Stanley Cup since 1967? He's a great team guy and a well-liked persona in the dressing room. And all those people that have criticized him and tried to dowel him, this is their perception and their problem. His acquisition late in the offseason, created only a minor undulation in Leaf Nation. On the contrary the dominant feeling that the nation had that he was an acceptable risk at $1.55 million for a single season. In March 2001, Philadelphia GM Bob Clarke agreed to send Lindros, who was then one of the highest-paid players in the league, to Toronto for Nik Antropov, Danny Markov and a draft pick or two. The prospect sent Leaf Nation into rage. By the time Lindros arrived in Toronto this summer No. 88 jerseys has magically appeared in stores. Lindros recent contribution for the Leafs’ was a crucial goal in the Leafs' 4-2 victory over the Flyers on which Ken Hitchcock -- his former coach commented that Lindros had become such a dominant force so early in the season. He has seven points in six games and leads all Toronto forwards with 20:12 of ice time per game. For a player who seems to have been at odds with the hockey gods much of his career, perhaps failing to fulfill the expectations so many had for him, was involved in a sour, personal quarrels with Flyers management that cost him a year of playing time. Now it seems that he has found just the right karma in Toronto now.