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Friday, June 30, 2006

Armstrong vindicated?

With Friday's revelation of an enormous doping scandal regarding the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong has to feel vindicated.

Like him or not, so far he has beaten every drug test and every accusation lobbed his way. Now with him gone, the Tour faces its biggest drug bust in several years.

Does it clear Armstrong once and for all? Not in the court of public opinion.

Hopefully what it will do is unearth another American rider who has a chance to score a Tour victory in George Hincapie. I had the chance to meet Hincapie last year at Willis-Knighton's new orthopedic center and, if any American cyclist can come close to replicating Armstrong, it's Hincapie.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Millsap made right decision

If Paul Millsap returned to Louisiana Tech, would he have gone any higher than this year's draft?

The Utah Jazz selected him Wednesday night with the No. 47 pick overall, but it's doubtful he would have improved his draft status for next year.

Let's face it. Millsap has probably tapped out his potential on the college circuit. He needs to take his game to the next level and now was the time to do it.

Nevada stud Nick Fazekas and Millsap both declared their eligibility for the draft, but Fazekas is heading back to the NCAA. Yet, Fazekas, who has had a better all-around game than Millsap, is looking at an early to mid-second round pick next year. I don't think Millsap would be leapfrogging him after another year at Louisiana Tech.

He'd still be looking at a mid-to-late second round selection in 2007 too.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

20-20 vision

Paul Millsap left Louisiana Tech a year early in part because he figured to be a late first-round pick. Instead, Millsap was a late second-round pick on Wednesday.

Obviously no one can make decisions over again, but Millsap probably would have been better served returing to school for his senior season. Second-round contracts aren't guaranteed the way they are in the first round.

His decision not only hurt his pro career, but hurts the Tech team he has led for the last three seasons.

And just Tech's luck, the player Millsap battled for WAC Player of the Year honors - Nevada's Nick Fazekas - withdrew his name from the draft is returning to Nevada. Fazekas appears to have made the smarter decision.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Millsap may be in for a rude awakening

Former La. Tech stud Paul Millsap left school a year early because he figured now was the time to end to the NBA. This year's draft is particularly thin. There's no clear consensus as to who the No. 1 pick is.

Millsap dominated the WAC and was the best rebounder in the nation for three straight seasons, but jumping to the NBA is going to take a big initiative on his part to improve his weaknesses. Fortunately, that is one of Millsap's fortes - a relentless work ethic.

Millsap's agent, DeAngelo Simmons, believes his client is a late first rounder to early second rounder. That's probably an optimistic vision and it's more likely that Millsap will go late in the second round.

He has some work on his offensive game, most notably, his perimeter game from 10 feet out and his defensive skills need polishing. He has tremendous upside, but right now his strength is his rebounding and not that many NBA teams may be willing to take him in the first round.

About that super conference

Every time a BCS conference expands, the national media is quick to jump on the whole Super Conference concept. When the Big Eight and Southwest Conference had their, uh, marriage of sorts, the Big 12 was pronounced as a Super Conference. The Big 12 has certainly had its moments, but it has had to share the state with the Pac-10, SEC, ACC and even the Big Ten to an extent.

So now the ACC comes along as the next Super Conference. Taking in the best of the Big East, the ACC was ready to flex its muscle.

The scorecard please -- Football national championship (Big 12 over Pac-10); Men's basketball (SEC over Pac-10) and Baseball (Pac-10 over ACC).

Heck, you could make a case this year for the much-maligned Pac-10 as the best sports league.

As for the greatness of the ACC, let's hold off for a while. History shows us the league will have its moments, but it is doubtful that any conference is going to be dominant over the other BCS leagues.

Monday, June 26, 2006

CWS final a classic

Four seasons ago, the College World Series -- in pursuit of the almighty dollar -- sold out and decided to go to a best-of-three championship series format.

In Year 4, those who made the decision finally got their money's worth. After back-to-back sweeps (Texas over Florida and Fullerton over Texas) and a snoozer of a first Game 3 (Rice's pounding of Stanford in 2003), North Carolina and Oregon State finished off a doozy of a series Monday night.

Sure it ended with an error, but the three games showcased what was good about college baseball (players like OSU's Kevin Gunderson and Carolina's Mike Cavasinni) and the bad (18 runs in a "championship" game on Saturday).

It wasn't Warren Morris walking off with LSU's third title of the 1990s, but it's good to see the game get a finish worthy of two teams who wanted to call themselves the best.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A draft with some interest

The NBA Draft rarely has had much interest around here in recent years. Not so this year.

On Wednesday, we'll have stories looking at the prospect of both LSU's Tyrus Thomas and Louisiana Tech's Paul Millsap. Thomas could be a lottery pick. Millsap could go late in the first round or early in the second round.

We'll also have stories looking at the Dallas Mavericks' and New Orleans Hornets' needs. The Hornets obviously need a little more than the Mavs, but that's what's great about a draft. Just a few years ago, the Mavs took Josh Howard out of Wake Forest and the Hornets took David West out of Xavier. I'd say that worked out rather well for them.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Take a bow Shreveport

So I'm looking through Dave Campbell's Texas Football (The greatest football mag out there, by the way) and come across some of their recruiting tidbits.

One lists the number of signees by metropolitan area in Texas. Dallas-Fort Worth was No. 1 with 188 players signing - and you wonder why colleges are trying to get their foot in the door in that market. No. 2 was Houston with 83 players.

No. 3 was not San Antonio, El Paso or Austin. It was Tyler-Longview-Lufkin with 25 players signing. That tells you all you need to know about that area.

No. 4 was not San Antonio, El Paso or Austin. It was, drum roll please, SHREVEPORT (East Texas) with 19 players signing. Granted, this probably includes Carthage and Marshall. Still, for this area and surrounding East Texas towns to outdo bigger cities and bigger metro areas is quite the feat.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Wells sends a signal to fans

I suspect LSU has found its man and allowed Jim Wells to take his own name out of the hat for the baseball coaching job. Sure, it's possible Wells decided he just didn't want the job, but, unless this drags on with no solid names in sight, I bet the coach has been selected.

La. Tech schedule card

I hold in my hand the Louisiana Tech football schedule card. Let's examine it, shall we?

Side One: A black-and-white mug shot of Joe Aillet, certainly a giant in the history of Tech football. But an advertisement to sell tickets and fill seats? That would be no. Aillet, as is noted on the front, hasn't coached at the school in 40 years. Recognize him some other way, not in a spot where young eyes (recruits, future fans) will be looking. And if you have to recognize him...a mug shot? On a glossy schedule card?

Side Two: How many decades in Division I-A will it take to learn how to schedule? Jack Bicknell III is lucky he got an extension on his contract. Facing Texas A&M and Clemson back-to-back and then playing a third game on the road will be like going to a slaughterhouse. After two games at home, there is another three-week road trip, ending with a road game at Hawaii.
If the conference is throwing in the second string, at least avoid complicating the matter with your own non-conference troubles.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup experience not so fun for U.S. team

The quest for a World Cup title is over for the U.S. national soccer team.

At least it scored a goal in a 2-1 loss to Ghana on Thursday. That goal was the first by an American in 388 minutes of Cup play dating back to 2002 - not too good. Congratulations to Ghana for advancing to the next round in its first trip to the World Cup.

Italy, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and Spain look like the teams to beat. Let's go with Germany to win it all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Media is own worst enemy

Newspaper executives and publishers wring their hands and shake their heads over the decline of readership and circulation numbers trying to decipher the fall of the media empire. Look no further than the mirror boys.

Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote wrote in a column which appeared on Tuesday that Dallas Mavericks head coach Mark Cuban shouted expletives at NBA commish David Stern following the Mavs' Game 5 loss on Sunday.

Cote wrote: "...there was Cuban, whose billions can buy just about anything but a mortal slump by D-Wade, careening onto the court in a blue Jerry Stackhouse jersey after the final buzzer, screaming profanity at referee Joe Derosa. Cuban then turned to Stern and other NBA officials who were seated at the scorer's table and was overheard to shout venomously in the jubilant din, '[bleep] you! [bleep] you. Your league is rigged."

Cuban denounced the column on his own blog saying, "Apparently the Miami Herald is reporting I screamed at the NBA commissioner after the game the other night. Didn't happen. I didn't say a word to the man. Not a single word. And that was absolutely by intention.

"Apparently the 'reporter' has written he has several 'sources.' Well they must be the same sources the tabloids use to find two-headed babies and aliens because it didn't happen."

The major problem is Cote didn't hear Cuban shout the profanities first-hand. He didn't even get them second-hand. No, Cuban's quote from Cote came third-hand.

Cote explained on his own blog on the Miami Herald Web site that the comment was overheard by someone who is a good friend of Cote's and that he trusted his source's source. But Cote is hardly contrite nor does he apologize for his error. "I was wrong to use the quote. That doesn't mean the words were never said, denial notwithstanding," he wrote.

The media's perpetual ambition to dig for stories and beat competitors is as old as the first newspaper. But it seems that Cote failed the first rule of journalism - know your sources. I can't imagine another reporter running a third-hand quote at another paper and keeping their job.

Isn't that a basic part of journalism, being within proximity of sources? Shouldn't journalists be at least within 10 feet of a source, before publishing a quote? As my boss is wont to say: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

No wonder the public lists the media among lawyers and politicians as the least trustworthy professions out there.

On second thought

Think there are a few folks who have some regrets after the completion of the NBA Finals with Miami winning 4-2.

How 'bout the Dallas columnist who suggested that Miami was the fourth-best team the Mavericks faced in the playoffs after Game 2?

Or how 'bout the city officials in Dallas who began plotting parade routes after the Mavericks went up 2-0?

Or the Mavericks themselves, that coasted in Game 3 after getting a double-digit fourth-quarter lead only to lose that game and the following three?

There is a lesson here. These championship series are best-of-seven. Just because a team is up 2-0 or even 3-0 (remember the 2004 Red Sox), doesn't mean the series is over. In this rush-to-judgment society we live in we would all do well to pause before offering up our immediate thoughts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Want whine with that, Mark?

We're a nation of second-guessers and complainers in addition to being obese and generally frivolous.

As an example, the Seattle Seahawks lost in the Super Bowl and Mike Holmgren was gracious enough to blame the officials for most of their shortcomings that evening. Holmgren failed to mention his shoddy clock-management at the end of both halfs, Jerramy Stevens' cast-iron hands and kicker Josh Brown's case of the yips.

It was all on the officials, OK? The Seahaws were jobbed.

Right.

Now we have all this hubbub around the foul that sent Dwyane Wade to the free-throw line for the game-winning shots with 1.9 seconds left in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and led to the Mavs' inexplicable decision to call a timeout after Wade's first shot.

The Mavericks went nuts after the game, from the top on down. Mark Cuban, Avery Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard would accept no fault for their defeat. They blamed it all on the refs. Apparently, to guys like Cuban and the normally sensible Scott, Wade would have needed an autopsy to get the line that late in the game.

Um, just once I'd like to hear Cuban and other folks complain about officiating after a win. Just suck it up and say, "We pulled this out only because Joey Crawford really wanted us to have this one." Then those complaints would be more authentic to me. Most men doth protest too much.

So do most of us, I guess. I'm still steaming over that blown TD call in the Houston Oilers' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1979 AFC Championship Game.

Ooh...the Steelers again. It must be a conspiracy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tough road for Northwood pitcher

When Sean West was drafted and assigned to Jupiter, Fla., last year, it was only a few days later that I drove down I-95 toward Miami and got a first-hand look at Jupiter. Now, Northwood's Josh Stinson is three days away from reporting to Port St. Lucie, Fla., after signing with the Mets today.

What a lucky young man. This has to be among the most beautiful areas in the country. His first time spent on his own will be playing sports in a vacation dreamland. I hereby volunteer to follow Stinson to report on his career development for The Times.

Good luck, Josh.

Officially, NBA stinks

First, let me preface this rant by saying I've spent more time around Shaquille O'Neal (beat writer at LSU) than Mark Cuban (once in Bossier City). Yet when it comes to the NBA, Cuban may have a point about the league's officials.

I'm not saying Dallas lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals because of the officals -- make your free throws and it doesn't matter.

But what kind of sport has an official take the outcome of the game into his own hands by whistling a phanton-at-best foul call with 1.9 seconds remaining? What ever happened to letting the players decide the outcome?

If I wanted to watch Joe DeRosa and his counterparts, I'd wait for them outside of the Circle K.

I knowDwyane Wade is good and all, but at least Michael Jordan waited a few years before he got the star treatment and every call in sight.

Again, I'm not a huge NBA fan. And watching this series certainly isn't changing that.

UNINFORMED STAB PHIL IN BACK

Let me preface this by the fact that no one was rooting harder for Phil Mickelson to choke Sunday than myself. I'm not a big Phil fan and I wanted Colin Montgomerie to end his mindnumbing drought in America.

So there it was the Mickelson Meltdown, and of course, the onslaught of criticizm. Everyone and their mother bashed Phil for these supposed poor decisions in the final round of the U.S. Open. From Johnny Miller on NBC to The Golf Channel to Joe Smith, Phil reverted to some despondant crackpot gambling another major championship away.

These were the same people who believed Phil has walked on water for the past two years. The guy used the same golf game to win three majors as he did Sunday. The only difference was the fact his execution went south. He had a bad day and couldn't hit anything near the fairway.

It doesn't matter what he would have hit on the 18th tee, it wasn't going to hit the fairway. His swing was off. And his second shot on 18 was terrible too. If he chips out sideways, there is no way in heck he's going to make par and bogey would have been tough. His attempt to curl one out of the trees was what he thought he should do.

He himself said he was an idiot. Not for his decisions, but his horrific swings.
By the time Sunday was over I even felt bad for Mickelson.

In an earlier post Messerly made one vaild point (which is good for him on Monday), Montgomerie's approach was infinitely worse than Mickelson's attempts after his drive on 18. That shot setup perfectly for Colin.

What a Sunday!

Ward Cleaver is safe, I'm not a nominee for Dad of the year. Each Father's Day I lay out a simple request for a present from the family which is always "just give me my space."

I use "this space" to plop myself down in front of the TV with assorted snacks and drinks and enjoy a Sunday's worth of sports. This Sunday was especially satisfying.

7:20 a.m. First, wake up and review the rules of Father's Day with the family.

7:21 a.m. Sleep

Mid-morning: Catch Brazil in the World Cup. OK, I'm NOT into soccer, however, if you're going to watch something, watch the best in the world. By the way, is Pele injured? I didn't hear his name mentioned once in the game and it looked like they could have really used him early on.

Late morning: NASCAR race has rain. Ugh! This limits my options to just watching the U.S. Open. Golf is one of those sports I like dropping in on while watching other sports ... or at least until the final nine holes of a major.

Noon: Who hit Vijay Singh with the SuperSoaker before the first tee? This guy is sweating more than Roy Lang does when he realizes he's booked two dates for the same night.

1 p.m.: Green flag at the NASCAR race, yellow flag for rain. Why is it F1 can run in the rain but NASCAR can't? Show me a Goodyear ad that doesn't promote how its tires handle the rain yet they can't make a tire for the NASCAR types to run circles in the wet stuff?

Afternoon: College World Series from Omaha. OK, I lived in Omaha for a number of years and the CWS USED to be the greatest college sports event on the docket until everything under the sun had to have a corporate sponsor complete with tent.

The NCAA ruined this jewel with its greed. The charm is gone. No one in Omaha will admit it for fear of losing the event, but it isn't anywhere near as special as it used to be.

Of course, any Omahan would also tell you that the CWS isn't the CWS without LSU.

Late afternoon: What a Father's Day! Not one 18th hole meltdown, but two! Phil, back away from your VHS version of Tin Cup. It was a movie, not a playbook on how to become as popular as Tiger. No one cares how you get to a title, they just care that you close the deal. If Phil were a football coach, would he still be calling pass plays when all he would have to do is have his QB take a knee?

I thought Monty's choke was more profound. Phil's second shot was off the beaten path and behind some trees, Colin's was in the middle of the fairway.

Nighttime: Let's wrap this quickly, there was no reason to call a foul on Dwayne Wade's overtime drive to nowhere. The refs bailed him out. All that showboat dribbling and slashing did was draw three defenders into the paint where Wade found himself serving up a scoop shot from his knees.

Even if there was contact, you shouldn't reward a player, even a star like Wade, for such idiotic decisions. Swallow the whistle.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

U.S. still alive in World Cup -- but barely

The U.S. national soccer team played Italy to a 1-1 tie Saturday, giving it hope in the World Cup.

So what if the tying score was an own-goal by an Italian defender. The Americans showed they could keep up with a traditional world soccer powerhouse -- despite an overactive referee. And, thanks to Ghana's 2-0 defeat of the No. 2-ranked Czech Republic, the U.S. squad is still in contention in Group E.

A big problem for the Americans will be how coach Bruce Arena compensates for the loss of Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope, two of the team's best players who received red cards in the match (there were three total given by the ref) and will miss Thursday's match against Ghana's scrappy team.

The U.S. showed it could rebound from the loss against the Czechs, so they should have a good plan in place against Ghana. One part of this plan should be to try scoring a few goals -- the one they scored Saturday against Italy was disallowed (one of a few good calls by the ref). If they don't, it will be "auf wieder sehen" for the Americans.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

That Wade kid can play a little

A couple seasons ago, a local college football coach was watching an NBA game with a rookie guard who was making shot after shot, play after play.

The coach's reaction? That kid's pretty good.

That kid is indeed pretty good and he proved it again Thursday night on the biggest stage in his sport.

Sure LeBron James has lived up to the hype, which was nearly impossible given his post as the second coming of everything except the man upstairs. But Dwyane Wade has proven to be almost as good and a lot more underappreciated.

Wade pumped in 36 points to lead a dismantling of the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. But, his play of the game may have been keeping Shaq from tearing Jerry Stackhouse's head off and risking a suspension.

As it is, Wade seems primed to become the first of the Big 3 from the 2003 Draft (James, Wade and Carmelo Anthony) to get a ring.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Campbell's Chunky Soup curse strikes again!

Forget the Sports Illustrated "curse." It looks as if the Campbell's Chunky Soup curse is turning into the most powerful force in the NFL.

The commercials which have featured a variety of NFL players for years has an insidious way of afflicting its stars. Starting with former Green Bay Packer defensive Reggie White, the television ads have sidelined players or wrecked their teams' seasons.

It turns out the curse is even more powerful than imagined. It was reported that Ben Roethlisberger was scheduled to begin filming his Chunky Soup ad this week, that is until his motorcycle accident gave him a broken jaw (at least he'll still be able to eat his Chunky Soup through a straw). So now you don't have to appear in the ads, just be linked to the project for it to wreck your season and possibly career.

Just look at the list of "cursed" NFLers:
1) Reggie White - after making his ad, he went from "Minister of Defense" with Green Bay to a Carolina Panther and the end of his career.

2) Terrell Davis - the most infamous case. The guy helps Denver to two Super Bowls, says he loves Chunky Soup and is never heard from again.

3) Kurt Warner - Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl after rising from the Arena Bowl ranks. Smiles with a bowl of Chunky Soup in front of him and now he couldn't hit a teammate with a pass if he used Federal Express to ship the ball to him.

4) Donovan McNabb - the most recent curse victim.

The only one who appears to have broken the curse is Jerome Bettis. Bettis was riddled with injuries after doing his ad, but the Steelers won the Super Bowl last season.

Decisions, decisions

Xavier Carter's first two seasons on the football field have been rather nondescript. There was the ill-fated touchback at the 2-yard line at Georgia as a freshman. But the equally stunning touchdown run at Mississippi State as a sophomore. Other than those two plays, Carter has just sort of been there for the Tigers on the football field.

But on the track, well, that's a different story. He has folks in the track world mentioning him in the same breath as Jesse Owens. His coach at LSU says Carter could probably turn pro now in track and command $750,000.

Carter, though, is content to stay in school at LSU, play football and run track.

But a decision will have to be made one day - football or track.

If I'm a betting man, I'm betting on track. Carter is hoping to make the same kind of impact Olympian Bennie Brazell made for the Tigers on the football field last year. And maybe he can. But Carter is already elite in track. The money may be in football, but the ability is already there in track.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The World Cup has one thing going for it

For all the abuse the World Cup is taking in the States, it does have one thing going for it - it ain't hockey.

The Stanley Cup Finals will probably have one of the worst TV audience in history when the Carolina Hurricanes finally wrap up their championship in the next few days. Supposedly, the NCAA Softball World Series had better TV ratings than the Stanley Cup Finals.

All those columnists railing against the World Cup and how soccer will never catch on in the States with anyone over 18 are right. But U.S. soccer can take solace in the fact that Gary Bettman isn't in charge of its organization.

High school all-star game changes good

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association and Louisiana High School Coaches Association recently announced changes in their All-Star games.
After this year, the All-Star weekend of footall, basketball and volleyball games will no longer be held at LSU. The LHSAA/LHSCA's officially sanctioned football game will be the Bayou Bowl, a game between Louisiana and Texas All-Stars, in Baytown, Texas. The basketball and volleyball coaches' associations will likely stage their all-star games a week after their respective seasons are finished.
This is a good move.
Interest in the All-Star weekend, held traditionally in July, has waned over the years. Tiger Stadium looks virtually empty with the around 3,500 to 4,000 fans the football game usually draws. Top players in football and basketball often don't play for a variety of reasons ranging from fear of injury to commitments to national all-star games. There always seems to be a scramble to find replacement players.
Under the new format, the basketball and volleyball games will be played while interest in the sports is still high. Of course, they will also be anticlimatic so soon after the state tournaments.
Participating in the football game will be more of an honor with fewer spots available.
This is not say interest in the games will soar, but the LHSAA/LHSCA had to do something. The alternative would have been to let the games simply die.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Why are some athletes so stupid?

Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident on Monday has me shaking my head in disbelief. Why would a young man with the world in his pocket even risk injuring himself by riding a motorcycle? Probably for that very reason - because he does have the world in his pocket.

Roethlisberger is the youngest quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship. He has been the king of his world since probably high school so there's probably will be an air of invincibility that comes with being a) young and b) an NFL quarterback/celebrity. But, you'd think for a guy who wears a helmet for a living, he would have enough common sense to strap one on while riding his motorcycle.

Didn't athletes learn from Jay Williams' incident? Williams, a No. 2 pick, was in a motorcycle accident back in 2003 and hasn't been the same since. The Bulls bounced him from the organization and he's been trying to hook on with his next team since.

Roethlisberger broke his jaw which means 6-8 weeks of having his jaw wired shut. The season starts in 13 weeks. He's not going to be anywhere near playing shape after eating his meals through a straw. He'll probably drop around 30-40 pounds and will need a long recovery period to get ready for the season.

He's a big disappointment for himself and his teammates.

Lackluster U.S. needs spark in Germany

The U.S.-Czech Republic match was painful to watch Monday.

No, not because some non-fans may say "It's soccer." The pain came from watching what were billed by the media as some of the best players in the world -- and the most talented on any U.S. squad to date -- stand around and look disinterested.

This is the 5th-ranked team in the world according to FIFA and they seemed to be playing without desire, motivation or leadership.

Not to take anything away from the Czechs -- they have talent too. The difference is when the Czech Republic lost 6-foot-7 behemoth Jan Koller, who scored the game's first goal, other players stepped up. The Americans had no one.

The U.S. needs someone to take control against Italy on Saturday. While not as powerful as they have been in the past, the three-time World Cup champions will pose a tough challenge for the U.S., especially if the Americans played like they did Monday.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wells now there for the taking

If you're LSU athletic director Skip Bertman, watching Alabama's 8-7 loss to North Carolina on Saturday must have been delightful and painful all at once.

Bertman cares deeply about his friends in the game and Jim Wells is one of those. So watching Wells' Tide lose on a walk-off home run after hitting a homer of their own to go up by one in the ninth certainly had to make Bertman's stomach knot up.

On the other hand, the loss eliminated the Tide and made Wells available to talk about the vacant LSU coaching job, which he said late Saturday he had not been contacted about.

Let the intrigue begin.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Super Regionals underway

And I know myself and only about 5 percent of the rest of the American public care.

But with ESPN, ESPN2 and a lucky few who have ESPNU this weekend remains a good chance to catch some of the latest big-league draftees like Clemson's Tyler Colvin (a first-rounder by the Cubs) and Stanford pitcher Greg Reynolds, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. By the way, Colvin was the guy who hit the walk-off grand slam in the Tigers' 11-8 win over pesky Oral Roberts on Friday.

Best of all, no Harold Reynolds. He won't be butchering a broadcast until he gets to Omaha and the College World Series.

Ethics questioned on Everest

Former Shreveporter Joby Ogwyn was among the dozens of people who were on Mount Everest in the just completed summit season. Ogwyn attempted a speed record ascent (without supplemental oxygen) from the world's highest mountain's north (Tibetan) side. According to his reports on a Web site, Ogwyn made two attempts in May, reaching 8,600 meters (about an hour from the summit) on the first one, but bad weather forced him to turn back both times. Ogwyn had already summitted Everest once, in 1999, and at that time was the youngest American to do so.
But Ogywn wasn't involved in the biggest story on Everest this season. British climber David Sharp was one of 11 climbers who died on the mountain. According to media and Web site reports, about 40 climbers passed Sharp on the way to the summit and did not render aid. Among those was Mark Inglis, who was another big story because he was the first double amputee to reach the summit. According to reports, Inglis at least stopped to check on Sharp, who was in a place called rock cave.
The climbers' actions have been criticized by everyone from Sir Edmund Hillary, who along with Tenzing Norgay was the first to reach the summit in 1953, and columnist Rick Reilly in this week's Sports Illustrated.
Another climber, Australia's Lincoln Hall, was also left for dead but later rescued by American guide Dan Mazur and others and survived.
I don't pretend to be a mountain climbing expert (the closest I've gotten to Everest is the new Expedition Everest roller coaster at Walt Disney World last month), but I have read several books about Everest, written about Ogwyn and am interested in the subject.
It's difficult to believe that someone could simply pass by another person in need of help. People now pay thousands of dollars to reach the summit, and helping Sharp may have meant abandoning that goal. Still, that's hardly a good excuse.
There have also been arguments that trying to rescue someone at high altitude puts even more people at risk. And by some accounts, Sharp was beyond hope.
Still, if you find someone alive that's in need of help, it seems to me you are obligated to render aid. It is simply the right thing to do, even though the rescue attempt could fail.
Lincoln Hall's story suggests that, if someone had decided to take action, David Sharp might be alive today.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cuban

Speaking of Mark Cuban, why is he now getting credit for "turning around the worst pro franchise in sports?"
Heard of the L.A. Clippers? New Orleans/San Antonio Saints? That's just a starting list of franchises with worse -- far worse -- history than the Dallas Mavericks.
And who says Cuban did it? Just because he spent freely doesn't mean he made coaching decisions.

You think hockey is a rough sport...

I recently got back from a trip to Ireland and got to see some of the roughest sports on the planet. Sure, the world adores soccer/football, as do the Irish, but they also revel in playing some of the toughest sports I've ever seen. No wonder they down pints of Guinness. It's to relax them before a game or dull the pain after one.

Hurling looks like an ancestor of field hockey and it is a grandfather of ice hockey so all the physical traits are there, except its played on a field. Imagine a sport where you get to carry bats around a soccer field, whacking a baseball at field goals...plus there's no protective gear (only helmets that a few players wear).

I also got to see a bit of rugby on television in a pub. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, strip them of their shoulder pads and helmets, and let them go at it. That's rugby. Only rugby players aren't 6-5, 350. Most of them are linebacker/fullback size with a couple of wideouts thrown in. One couple I met in Dublin were parents of a son on an English team. They talked about his broken thumbs, dislocated shoulder and strained back like proud parents displaying their his first-place science fair exhibit. And yet, for all the brutality, Rugby players are extremely cordial on the field. When speaking with the referee, they must refer to him as "sir."

But, the winner of the toughest sport I saw goes to Gaelic football. It's a mixture of rugby, American football, soccer and a wrestling match. Virtually anything goes in the sport. It looks a lot like Australian Rules Football - that sport ESPN televised at 2 a.m. during its earlier years. If the ball is in the air, it's a free-for-all. Players whack each other over the head, trying to jar the ball loose (or knock them unconscious, I wasn't quite sure how that worked). And oh yeah, there's no protective equipment whatsoever - no helmet, shoulder pads, shin guards. I doubt some of those guys wore a cup.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mavs in 6

Dirk will be tougher for the Heat to handle than Shaq will be for the Mavs. That's a prediction.

Monday, June 05, 2006

New LSU coach

There is a dry erase board behind my desk at The Times, and those of us in the sports staff have begun posting predictions for the next LSU baseball coach. Most have gone with Jim Wells of Alabama, who was a Bertman assistant and the head coach at NSU before moving on to Alabama.
I like to row against the tide (no pun intended), so I'm banking on Centenary's Ed McCann getting the job. I may change my mind later and post a different name. Any recommedations?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Change of the guard at LSU

About a month ago, I would have said Smoke Laval was safe for another year at LSU. The Tigers were making some progress. They looked like a lock for both the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

A month later, after the Tigers backed into the SEC Tournament and completely missed the NCAA Tournament, I thought it could go either way.

My thought for Laval staying was his close relationship with athletic director Skip Bertman.
My thought for Laval being fired was Bertman's close relationship with the Benjamins. Declining attendance means dwindling dollars and LSU needs as many dollars as it can get.

So Bertman didn't do the easy thing, he fired Laval and his staff.

Did Bertman do the right thing? History will tell.

LSU fired a successful football coach for not winning enough - Charlie McClendon. Then the Tigers went nearly two decades before Nick Saban brought them back to consistently winning. Is Laval the second coming of McClendon?

Doubtful? This is more like Gerry DiNardo, or even Curley Hallman.

Still, this is an important hire for Bertman. He booted his first one by picking Laval. He needs a home run this time.

Parity in college baseball?

With the first weekend of the NCAA baseball tournament almost wrapped up it is clear that parity is beginning to spread ever so slowly throughout college baseball.

Er, throughout college baseball in the South.

At least the Super Regionals will have a couple of new teams in Oral Roberts and College of Charleston.

And don't forget about Missouri who is one more upset of Pepperdine away from becoming the first No. 4 seed to win a regional since the current tournament format began in 1999. Not only that but for the first time since 2001, we will have a College World Series without Texas.

All in all, parity would be a good thing for the game -- if it happened everywhere, not just the South.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mavericks moving on

Kudos to the Dallas Mavericks for winning the Western Conference Finals. I will gladly admit to being wrong about the Mavericks and their ability to win important games. Until this year, there was always a way to fall short.

This is a team that has finally gotten over the hump and I believe a big part of that credit has to go to Avery Johnson, the Mavs' coach.

Now, that being said, I can see The Finals against the Miami Heat going seven games. Regardless, it's good to see some fresh faces in The Finals.

The Times' Larry Wade will be in Dallas for Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday so check out his work.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Regionals full of shockers

For the NCAA baseball selection committee, Day 1 of the 2006 tournament has to have been one of mixed feelings.

Notorious at-large selection Mississippi State loses to Elon by a run. Notre Dame, which whined about its seeding as a No. 3, loses in 16 innings to the College of Charleston. Both Elon and CofC are members of the Southern Conference, a league that rarely gets an at-large bid to the tournament.

So kudos to the committee for taking a SoCon team as an at-large.

Overall, the day has been one of surprises (Wichita State edges Houston; Prairie View scares Rice) and pretty good baseball (Oklahoma State's sub-two-hour win over Princeton). But the committee can't be feeling too good about several of its at-large selections.

More than Mavs could ask for

It's funny what you remember about things you cover.

In 2004, I covered the Dallas Mavericks' draft. That was the year the Mavericks, drafting late in the first round, took a kid from Wake Forest, Josh Howard. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said all the right things about Howard, but you got the impression if they got much at all from him in the coming years they'd be thrilled.

But that's not all that I remember from that night. No, there is a better story than that.

The Mavericks' draft was held in a meeting room in the American Airlines Center that day. That same night there was a Justin Timberlake concert in the arena.

While the draft was going on, you could see into the Mavericks' practice gym and there was Dirk Nowitzki shooting baskets with Timberlake.

Dallas being Dallas, media went scurrying to interview Timberlake only to be rebuffed.

Why does this matter now? On Thursday, the same night Nowitzki hung half a hundred on Phoenix, Howard scored 23 points. And, oh by the way, the Mavs are 24-0 when Howard scores 20 or more points.

Nowitzki didn't know it at the time, but the guy the Mavericks were drafting was a guy who was going to help push him deeper into the NBA playoffs -- and a guy with a brighter future than Timberlake.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sad Sports

The Shreveport Sports wrapped up their three-game homestand on Thursday night. Most of Shreveport wouldn't know it though. Because most of Shreveport apparently doesn't care about the Sports. Crowds of less than 1,000 have been common at Fair Grounds Field this season.

It's hard to really fault the fans. The Sports went into Thursday's game with a 1-7 record at Fair Grounds Field. That means seven out of eight times fans went home after watching a loser.

It's a shame, though. The Sports' front office is trying to bring back the magic of the Captains' good ol' days. They've done some things to make the stadium more appealing.

Unfortunately, the product right now isn't very good.

Hurting New Orleans shows signs of life

Last week I spent a night in New Orleans on the way back from a trip to Florida. It was my second time in the city since Katrina. I was also there in January, when I drove through the devastated Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
This time I drove through the Lakeview section and other areas near Lake Ponchartrain. TV doesn't really do justice to the devastation. You have to see it in person. TV can show some of it, but even from the air it's difficult to see the scope. You have to drive through it and see block after block and mile after mile of houses and businesses gutted and boarded up. Shopping centers are are in the same shape. Driving in on I-10 from Slidell you start to see deserted apartment complexes and boarded up shopping centers just off the interstate. It's simply unbelievable.
But there are signs of life. FEMA trailers dot the driveways of many houses in neighborhoods in Lakeview. And traffic lights work and some businesses are open. That wasn't the case in the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish in January.
The New Orleans Aquarium reopened the Friday I was there. Also, Superdome repairs are ahead of schedule, according to reports. I drove by the Dome, where I covered many state high school championships, and I could see work was progressing well on the roof.
As you probably know, the French Quarter wasn't flooded and didn't suffer much damage. But if the small crowds on Bourbon Street on a Thursday night are any indication, the tourism industry is going to suffer for a while.
Probably one of the saddest drives I took was around City Park. The New Orleans Museum of Art and some other of the park's attractions are open. But much of the park was in bad shape.
The tennis complex, where I played tournaments as a youth, appeared to be a center for temporary work sheds. The hard courts, overlooked by damaged bleachers, looked OK. The soft courts didn't have nets but appeared to still be covered by rubico, the sandy substance that makes them soft courts. I didn't see the golf course, but reports are that it's not in great shape, either.
All in all, a sobering experience.