Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fedor loses

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Fabricio Werdum turned the MMA world on its ear with his stunning upset off top-ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Werdum” on Saturday at the HP Pavilion.

“I feel very, very happy,” Werdum said. “I know my team is a strong team. I believed in this victory because of the hard training.”

In a fight that was deemed little more than a formality by many pundits and fans, it seemed like Emelianenko was well on his way to an expected victory after he deposited Werdum on his wallet with a right hand just moments into the bout.

However, the man who has ruled the heavyweight division for so long inexplicably followed the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist to the ground and soon found himself fending for his life, as Werdum transitioned through a series of submission attempts.

Emelianenko fought off an armbar but was quickly engulfed by Werdum’s legs in a triangle choke that began to squeeze the unbeatable aura from the former Pride champion. He fought to keep his wits, but it became clear he was in an inescapable position.

Werdum manipulated Emelianenko’s left arm away from his body and started to hyperextend his limb with a wrenching armbar that forced the legendary fighter to tapout for the first time in his MMA career. The end came just 69 seconds into the main event. [video]

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wall, Turner, Favors, Johnson, Cousins top 2010 NBA draftees

NEW YORK -- The Washington Wizards selected John Wall with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Thursday as they quickly began rebuilding their backcourt.

With the No. 1 pick in the draft, the Wizards selected guard John Wall -- one of three Kentucky Wildcats taken among the first 14 picks.

The SEC player of the year is the first Kentucky player ever chosen first overall.

"It's a big honor," Wall told ESPN after his selection.

He goes to a Washington team hoping to quickly bounce back after a disastrous season that included Gilbert Arenas' season-ending suspension for bringing guns into the team locker room.

Wall could replace Arenas as the Wizards' point guard, or perhaps play alongside him in a potential high-scoring backcourt. He'll try to become the third straight freshman point guard to win Rookie of the Year honors after Chicago's Derrick Rose and Sacramento's Tyreke Evans -- who like Wall also played for John Calipari.

The pick came shortly after a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that the Chicago Bulls had agreed to trade veteran guard Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick in the draft to the Wizards. Hinrich is a solid veteran defensive guard who could help with Wall's transition to the NBA.

After his name was announced to begin the draft, Wall hugged family members and donned a blue Wizards cap before climbing onto the stage to shake commissioner David Stern's hand.

The Philadelphia 76ers took national player of the year Evan Turner from Ohio State at No. 2. The notoriously tough Philadelphia fans at Madison Square Garden liked the choice, loudly cheering and chanting "Evan Turner! Evan Turner!"

Derrick Favors became the second freshman taken in the first three picks when the New Jersey Nets chose the Georgia Tech forward. A source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that the Nets might make a deal Thursday night after selecting the 6-10 Favors, or wait to see if one comes in July during the free-agency period.

The Minnesota Timberwolves then grabbed Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson, whom the Nets also had considered. Stern seemed impressed by the Christmas-colored slacks worn by Johnson, who held up his leg to show them off.

Kentucky, which hoped to have a record five players taken in the first round, put its second in the top five when DeMarcus Cousins was taken by Sacramento.

Cousins, Wall's Kentucky teammate, said Wednesday he is the best player in the draft and "it's that simple."

The 6-11 Cousins has the potential to become a dominant big man in a league where there are fewer every year, and his size and skill would seem to make him a lock to be taken in the first few picks.

"I am the most dominant, and I believe I am the biggest game changer," Cousins said. "I believe I am the best talent in the draft."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

59 to 59

WIMBLEDON, England - On and on and on, and on some more, they played — longer than anyone ever had before. And still there was no winner.

John Isner of Tampa, Fla., and Nicolas Mahut of France were tied at 59-59 in the fifth set at Wimbledon after exactly 10 hours of action when play was suspended because of darkness Wednesday night. It is by far the longest match in terms of games or time in the century-plus history of tennis.

“Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever,” Isner said.


WIMBLEDON, England — The top players took care of business on the big courts at Wimbledon, then found themselves immersed in the drama unfolding on little Court 18.

"Unreal," Andy Roddick tweeted.

"Absolutely amazing," Roger Federer said.

"It's longer than a marathon," Venus Williams said.

The match between John Isner of Tampa, Fla., and Nicolas Mahut of France lasted so long it was suspended because of darkness — for the second night in a row. After 10 hours of play, 881 points and 193 aces over two days, the fifth set was at 59-all.

It kept going because neither player could break the other.

"He's serving fantastic. I'm serving fantastic," Isner said. "That's really all there is to it."

The electronic scoreboard froze and then went blank, perhaps from the fatigue of trying keeping up with the longest match in the sport's history. The Wimbledon website also lost track of the score.

Following an overnight suspension, the match resumed Wednesday at the start the fifth set. More than seven hours later, there was still no winner.

"Nothing like this will ever happen again," Isner said. "Ever."

They were to resume Thursday, still tucked away on Court 18, while Queen Elizabeth II was expected in the Royal Box on Centre Court for her first visit to Wimbledon since 1977.


Isner finally prevails after 11 hours and 5 minutes, 70-68.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Manute Bol

The Washington Post has learned that Manute Bol, the 7-foot-7 Sudanese giant who was a shot-blocking sensation with the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors and other teams in the National Basketball Association, has died at 47.

He died at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville of complications from Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare skin condition contracted after a reaction to a medication he had taken in Africa. He had kidney failure, internal bleeding and other medical complications.

Mr. Bol, who, it can be safely said, was the only NBA player to have killed a lion with a spear, came to the United States in the early 1980s and joined the Washington Bullets after playing one year of college basketball. He was freakishly tall and thin, yet he had an amazing ability to block opponents' shots and twice led the NBA in that category.

During and after his NBA career, he tried to draw international attention to the humanitarian needs of his native Sudan, supporting rebel political movements and trying to bring peace to his embattled homeland.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lakers defeat Celtics for NBA Championship

LOS ANGELES — It wasn't easy, and it certainly wasn't pretty in the battle of the NBA's most storied franchises.

But do the Los Angeles Lakers really care?

After 48 minutes of rugged, sloppy basketball, the Lakers are champions for the second season in a row after an 83-79 victory Thursday against the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

It was a measure of revenge for the Lakers, who vowed to get tougher after their six-game loss to the Celtics in the 2007-08 Finals. Their 16th franchise title, one behind Boston, was accomplished by rallying from a 13-point deficit early in the third quarter.

Kobe Bryant, who averaged 28.6 points in the Finals and came up with 15 rebounds Thursday, was named Finals MVP for the second year in a row.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Govinda Patterson

Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks? If the “old dog” just happens to be a certain middle-aged basketball player and MidWeek columnist, I can tell you it is very possible- especially if the teacher is Govinda Patterson, a 34-year-old former player and coach from Northern California, who now lives in Mililani.

Just 10 minutes on a local basketball court with Patterson arguably taught me more about balance and control than I had learned in five decades playing the game. I came away from the court absolutely amazed at his revolutionary ideas that combine basketball strategies with techniques learned in the martial arts. Patterson calls his system the “Better Balance Techniques.”

“It doesn’t matter how big or strong or fast you are. If you know your center of balance and you use it to control your opponent’s balance, then you have a big advantage,” he says.

If this sounds like mumbo-jumbo, trust me, it isn’t. While he was teaching me, it was as if a light bulb was going off - to actually feel balance being taken away or helping gain an advantage was an incredible feeling.

“Why would you play off-balance if you didn’t have to?” he asks rhetorically. “I think what I’m teaching can help shape the way people play the game.”

Patterson knows his stuff. He grew up playing basketball in and around Mount Shasta, Calif. He was an all-star post player in high school who grew to be 6 feet 5 1/2 inches tall, and he played junior college ball at the College of the Siskiyous before a back injury prematurely ended his career. Along the way, he also had dabbled in the martial arts, including aikido, judo and karate, and he earned a brown belt in Kung Fu San Soo.

“I didn’t realize it at first that what I was doing was combining what I had learned in (martial arts training) and applying it to basketball,” he says. “After I got hurt I couldn’t play, so I thought about the game all the time, and it just made so much more sense. The center of balance - knowing your center of gravity - was the key. The techniques help so much with post offense, post defense and rebounding.”

Patterson did some voluntary and assistant coaching in California and Utah before moving to the Islands to be with his girlfriend, Lianna. He’s lived in Mililani the past three years and is now trying to promote his idea to NBA coaching staffs. He’s talked with nine NBA teams and one WNBA team, but so far he hasn’t been able to get past an introductory stage and all the way to the head coach.

“Every team has loved what I’ve shown them, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to see any head coaches yet. It boggles my mind,” he says with some frustration. “I would think that any coach who wants to win would be willing to see me for 10 minutes. I realize that the NBA has hundreds of people calling them, and they may think this is just another crazy person calling. (But) I think this (technique) definitely creates a chance to give their players an advantage. Even if it’s only a couple of rebounds a game, it’s worth it!”

One person who has helped him in his journey is basketball legend Bill Walton. Patterson was introduced to Walton by former UCLA and Hawaii coach Larry Farmer, and they met near Walton’s San Diego home with Patterson showing him the Better Balance Techniques.

“He watched and listened so intently, and said he agreed with everything I said,” says Patterson, “and then he wrote me a great letter of recommendation. It’s opened so many doors.”

Texas says no to Pac-10

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Staring at extinction, the Big 12 is once again in play.

The beleaguered conference made a rousing comeback Monday, when Texas declined an invitation to join the Pac-10 and decided to stay in the Big 12.

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M quickly followed the Longhorns by recommitting to the conference after commissioner Dan Beebe convinced his members they would make more money in television and media deals in a 10-team Big 12 then in a 16-team Pac-10.

"University of Texas president Bill Powers has informed us that the 10 remaining schools in the Big 12 Conference intend to stay together," Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. "We are excited about the future of the Pac-10 Conference and we will continue to evaluate future expansion opportunities under the guidelines previously set forth by our presidents and chancellors."

As for the Pac-10 and Scott, who was trying pull off a bold move that would have dramatically changed the landscape of college sports, they are left looking for at least one more member to get to 12 by 2012 when Colorado is set to join.

Scott's next target? Utah from the Mountain West Conference would seem a likely candidate.

Scott's plan was to add Texas (with Notre Dame the big prize in the conference expansion game) along with its main Big 12 South rivals -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Because Texas is the richest and most powerful of the Big 12 schools, the Longhorns were seen as the lynchpin to the deal. Wherever Texas decided to place its cash cow football program, the rest of the schools would seemingly fall in line.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nebraska headed to the Big Ten

In another dizzying day that will long be remembered as part of the reshaping of college sports, two universities with brand-name football programs announced they were leaving their conferences.

As expected, Nebraska’s regents voted on Friday to join the Big Ten Conference in 2011, giving that league 12 members. The decision could be the fatal blow to the Big 12 Conference, which now has 10 members and appears on the cusp of collapse.

In a somewhat surprising move — at least in the timing — Boise State announced that it would leave the Western Athletic Conference and join the Mountain West in 2011.

Nebraska and Boise State have joined Colorado, which had announced on Thursday that it was leaving the Big 12 for Pacific-10, to form the first wave of conference realignment.

Pac-10 now has 11 teams (so far)

Colorado joined the Pac-10 on Thursday, marking the first addition to the conference since the Arizona schools joined in 1978. Now Cal, Stanford and their West Coast colleagues are asking: Who's next?

With Nebraska perhaps poised to join the Big Ten, one possible scenario would be a 16-team Pac-10 "superconference" that would include all existing teams along with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That lineup would greatly strengthen the conference's leverage for new TV contracts that begin next year. The "Pac-16" could start playing football in 2012.

Much depends on what Texas and Oklahoma do once Nebraska makes its move, which could come as soon as today. Representatives from Texas and Texas A&M met Thursday to talk things over on a day full of unofficial reports. One of them had Oklahoma State deciding to join the Pac-10, which the school denied.

Boise State joins Mountain West

Boise State has given the Mountain West Conference a 10th program.

Boise State is leaving the Western Athletic Conference, a league the Broncos have dominated for a decade in football, the MWC confirmed with a statement Friday.

"We are pleased and excited to welcome Boise State University to the Mountain West Conference," commissioner Craig Thompson said in the news release. "Since our inception just 11 short years ago, the Mountain West has experienced tremendous success, and the addition of Boise State will further enhance that strength. The MWC continues to strategize regarding potential membership scenarios and bringing Boise State into the Conference is an important part of that evolution."

Roy Kramer, who first pulled expansion levers with the SEC, sees the Big Ten dictating another shakeup of college football this time, Gene Wojciechowski writes. Story

The current landscape of college football could be greatly altered by realignment. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach breaks down a few things you need to know. Story

Boise State becomes the second institution to join the Mountain West in the past six years, after TCU was added in 2005. The conference was founded in 1998 with eight members.

The Mountain West also includes Brigham Young, Utah, Air Force, Wyoming, UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico and Colorado State.

USC hit with sanctions

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California has received a two-year bowl ban and a sharp loss of football scholarships in a report on the NCAA's four-year investigation of the school.

The NCAA cited USC for a lack of institutional control Thursday in its long-awaited report, which detailed numerous violations primarily involving Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush and men's basketball player O.J. Mayo.

The NCAA found that Bush, identified as a "former football student-athlete," was ineligible beginning at least by December 2004 and through Bush's Heisman-winning 2005 season, which ended with the Trojans' loss to Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

USC will lose 10 football scholarships annually from 2011-13. The Trojans also received four years of probation.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Strasburg debuts with record performance

Stephen Strasburg sets club record in major league debut by striking out 14 in 7 innings.

Listen to Strasburg (and the rest of the Nationals) on WNOS -1450AM). (It worked for me this time anyway.)

[7/9/10] Or try one of these

Falling for Aikido

Viewed from the outside, aikido looks more like a graceful dance than an effective way to disarm an attacker. In truth, it’s both. Favoring precise body movements over strength or carefully placed blows, the fairly recent martial art uses various joint locks and throws to redirect the motion of the attacker to either control the opponent or to ward off another attack.

Of course, this is a very simplified description of a martial art form that can have literally thousands of movement combinations.

By design, aikido training is a cooperative effort where both the nage (thrower) and the uke (attacker) move in harmony with one another to maximize the learning of both participants. As with other martial arts that emphasize throws, learning to fall is of utmost importance. It is often said, somewhat jokingly, that aikido is the art of falling down.

Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the 1920s-30s. Born to a well-placed family in 1883 in the Wakayama Prefecture, about 30 miles south of Osaka, Ueshiba was weak as a child and spent most of his time reading about Buddhist heroes while hearing stories of his famous samurai forebears. Ueshiba improved his health as a young man through the practice of juijitsu and later came to study with Onisaburo Deguchi, a spiritual leader who taught a pacifist view of human interaction. Ueshiba came to believe that people could gain universal understanding and achieve world peace through the study of martial arts.

Or, at least, through one martial art, aikido, which translates to “The Way of Harmony.”

Friday, June 04, 2010

John Wooden dies at 99

John Wooden, college basketball's gentlemanly Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever, has died. He was 99.

The university said Wooden died Friday night of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since May 26.

With his signature rolled-up game program in hand, Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including an unmatched streak of seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.

Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor -- later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

As a coach, he was groundbreaking trendsetter who demanded his players be in great condition so they could play an up-tempo style not well-known on the West Coast at the time.

But the Wizard's legacy extended well beyond that.

He was the master of the simple one- or two-sentence homily, instructive little messages best presented in his famous "Pyramid of Success," which remains must-read material, not only for fellow coaches but for anyone in a leadership position in American business.

He taught the team game and had only three hard-and-fast rules -- no profanity, tardiness or criticizing fellow teammates. Layered beneath that seeming simplicity, though, were a slew of life lessons -- primers on everything from how to put on your socks correctly to how to maintain poise: "Not being thrown off stride in how you behave or what you believe because of outside events."

"What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player," was one of Wooden's key messages.

Wooden began his career as a teacher during the Great Depression and was still teaching others long past retirement. He remained a fixture at UCLA games played on a court named after him and his late wife, Nell, and celebrated his 99th birthday with a book he co-authored on how to live life and raise children.

Asked in a 2008 interview the secret to his long life, Wooden replied: "Not being afraid of death and having peace within yourself. All of life is peaks and valleys. Don't let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low."

Asked what he would like God to say when he arrived at the pearly gates, Wooden replied, "Well done."

Even with his staggering accomplishments, he remained humble and gracious. He said he tried to live by advice from his father: "Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books -- especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day."

While he lived his father's words, many more lived his. Those lucky enough to play for him got it first hand, but there was no shortage of Wooden sayings making the rounds far away from the basketball court.

"Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow," was one.

"Don't give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you," was another.

Born Oct. 14, 1910, near Martinsville, Ind., on a farm that didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing, Wooden's life revolved around sports from the time his father built a baseball diamond among his wheat, corn and alfalfa. Baseball was his favorite sport, but there was also a basketball hoop nailed in a hayloft. Wooden played there countless hours with his brother, Maurice, using any kind of ball they could find.

He led Martinsville High School to the Indiana state basketball championship in 1927 before heading to Purdue, where he was All-America from 1930-32. The Boilermakers were national champions his senior season, and Wooden, nicknamed "the Indiana Rubber Man" for his dives on the hardcourt, was college basketball's player of the year.

But it wasn't until he headed west to Southern California that Wooden really made his mark on the game.

Wooden guided the Bruins to seven consecutive titles from 1967 through 1973 and a record 88-game winning streak in the early 1970s. From the time of his first title following the 1963-64 season through the 10th in 1974-75, Wooden's Bruins were 330-19, including four 30-0 seasons.

The bespectacled former high school teacher ended up at UCLA almost by accident. Wooden was awaiting a call from the University of Minnesota for its head coaching job and thought he had been passed over when it didn't come. In the meantime, UCLA called, and he accepted the job in Los Angeles.

Minnesota officials called later that night, saying they couldn't get through earlier because of a snowstorm, and offered him the job. Though Wooden wanted it more than the UCLA job, he told them he already had given UCLA his word and could not break it.

The Bruins were winners right away after Wooden took over as coach at UCLA's campus in Westwood in 1949, although they were overshadowed by Bill Russell and the University of San Francisco, and later Pete Newell's teams at California.

At the time, West Coast teams tended to play a slow, plodding style. Wooden quickly exploited that with his fast-breaking, well-conditioned teams, who wore down opponents with a full-court zone press and forever changed the style of college basketball.

Still, it would be 16 seasons before Wooden won his first NCAA championship with a team featuring Walt Hazzard that went 30-0 in 1964. After that, they began arriving in bunches, and top players such as Alcindor, Walton, Sidney Wicks and Lucius Allen began arriving every year in Westwood.

Each would learn at the first practice how to properly put on socks and sneakers. Each would learn to keep his hair short and face clean-shaven, even though the fashions of the 1960s and '70s dictated otherwise.

And each would learn Wooden's "pyramid of success," a chart he used to both inspire players and sum up his personal code for life. Industriousness and enthusiasm were its cornerstones; faith, patience, loyalty and self-control were some of the building blocks. At the top of the pyramid was competitive greatness.

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are," Wooden would tell them.

"He set quite an example," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released by UCLA. "He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."

Wooden never had to worry about his reputation. He didn't drink or swear or carouse with other coaches on the road, though he did have a penchant for berating referees.

"Dadburn it, you saw him double-dribble down there!" went a typical Wooden complaint to an official. "Goodness gracious sakes alive!"

Wooden would coach 27 years at UCLA, finishing with a record of 620-147. He won 47 NCAA tournament games. His overall mark as a college coach was 885-203, an .813 winning percentage that remains unequaled.

But his legacy as a coach will always be framed by two streaks -- the seven straight national titles UCLA won beginning in 1967 and the 88-game winning streak that came to an end Jan. 19, 1974, when Notre Dame beat the Bruins 71-70.

After the loss, Wooden refused to allow his players to talk to reporters.

"Only winners talk," he said. A week later, UCLA beat the Irish at home by 19 points.

A little more than a year later, Wooden surprisingly announced his retirement after a 75-74 NCAA semifinal victory over Louisville. He then went out and coached the Bruins for the last time, winning his 10th national title with a 92-85 win over Kentucky.

After that victory, Wooden walked into the interview room at the San Diego Sports Arena to face about 200 reporters, who let their objectivity slip and applauded.

"When I think of a basketball coach the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden. He had a great life and helped so many coaches until well in his 90s," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told The Associated Press. "Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He's the best of all time. There will never be another like him, and you can't say that about too many people."

Long before that, though, the road to coaching greatness began after Wooden graduated with honors from Purdue and married Nell Riley, his high school sweetheart.

In a 2008 public appearance with Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, in which the men were interviewed in front of an audience, Wooden said he still wrote his late wife -- the only girl he ever dated -- a letter on the 21st of each month. "She's still there to me," he said. "I talk to her every day."

He coached two years at Dayton (Ky.) High School, and his 6-11 losing record the first season was the only one in his 40-year coaching career.

He spent the next nine years coaching basketball, baseball and tennis at South Bend (Ind.) Central High School, where he also taught English.

"I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession," he once said. "I'm glad I was a teacher."

Wooden served in the Navy as a physical education instructor during World War II, and continued teaching when he became the basketball coach at Indiana State Teachers College, where he went 47-17 in two seasons.

In his first year at Indiana State, Wooden's team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to the NAIB tournament in Kansas City. Wooden, who had a black player on his team, refused the invitation because the NAIB had a policy banning African Americans. The rule was changed the next year, and Wooden led Indiana State to another conference title.

It was then that UCLA called, though Wooden didn't take the job to get rich. He never made more than $35,000 in a season, and early in his career he worked two jobs to make ends meet.

"My first four years at UCLA, I worked in the mornings at a dairy from six to noon then I'd come into UCLA," he told The Associated Press in 1995. "Why did I do it? Because I needed the money. I was a dispatcher of trucks in the San Fernando Valley and was a troubleshooter. After all the trucks made their deliveries and came back, I would call in the next day's orders, sweep out the place and head over the hill to UCLA."

After he enjoyed great success at UCLA, the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly offered Wooden their head coaching job at a salary 10 times what he was making, but he refused.

Nell, Wooden's wife of 53 years, died in 1985. Besides his son and daughter, Wooden is survived by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Charlie Wedemeyer

Charlie Wedemeyer, one of Hawaii's most storied high school athletes who earned his greatest accolades for his dogged fight against Lou Gehrig's Disease, died this morning in California. He was 64.

Wedemeyer had undergone two major surgeries in recent weeks.

His inspirational life story has been well chronicled, resulting in a PBS documentary, "One More Season," a CBS movie, "Quiet Victory — The Charlie Wedemeyer Story" and a book he and his wife Lucy wrote, "Charlie's Victory."

In 1960, Wedemeyer was voted the Prep Athlete of the Decade. Last year, he was named one of the Hawai'i's top 50 sportspersons in the 50 years of statehood.

Wedemeyer, a multi-sport athlete at Punahou School, was diagnosed 33 years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the degenerative nerve condition that killed baseball's "Ironman" at age 37 on June 2, 1941. ALS is usually fatal within three years of diagnosis and only 10 percent of those afflicted live beyond eight years.

Despite Charlie's illness, the Wedemeyers would make speaking engagements, with Lucy delivering his message by reading his lips and his eye movements.

In 1999, he visited O'ahu Community Correctional Center and quipped, "In a sense, I also have a life sentence."

In 2005, the Wedemeyers made speaking engagements at Central Union Church and the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association Hall of Honor dinner.

In recent years, Charlie's kidney failed and last March, he was hospitalized and underwent three surgeries.

Through it all, the family remained incredibly upbeat.

"God is so good. We have been blessed," Lucy said last year.

Charlie and Lucy Dangler were high school sweethearts at Punahou, where Charlie played quarterback and halfback and was a three-time all-star in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

In 1964, he was named ILH Player of the Year, and played in a playoff game against Kamehameha that was televised throughout the state.

At Michigan State, Charlie was a receiver for the No. 2-ranked 1966 team that played No. 1 Notre Dame to a 10-10 tie in college football's famed "Game of the Century." It also was the first game televised live to Hawai'i.

After getting married and graduating, the Wedemeyers settled in Los Gatos, a small town about 15 miles southeast of San Jose. They had two children, Carri and Kale, and Charlie began a successful career as a math teacher and football coach at Los Gatos High.

Then in 1976, he started dropping the chalk when writing math problems on the chalkboard in class. After similar difficulties with his hands, he went to see a doctor, and eventually he was diagnosed with ALS.

Lou Gehrig's Disease is an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. The result is a loss of muscle control and movement.

ALS, which affects one out of every 50,000 people, accelerates quickly and many patients totally succumb within two or three years of diagnosis.

In Charlie's case, he was given one year to live.

But the Wedemeyers did not focus on what was taken away.

"In the beginning we didn't see anything positive about it, but then we renewed our faith in God and realized we are a tool that can be used to help other people," Lucy said in a 2005 interview with Advertiser sports writer Wes Nakama. "I think Charlie realized what an awesome responsibility he had been given, that there is a plan and purpose for everything."

In the early years of his illness, Wedemeyer prayed that he could get to see his two children grow up to graduate from high school and then college. They did.

Carri runs the website for the Charlie Wedemeyer Family Outreach program, which raises money for ALS research, while Kale is a doctor in private practice.

"God is so good. We have been blessed. Our two children are both happily married and live close to each other, and 4.2 minutes from us, but who's counting?" Lucy told Advertiser writer Bill Kwon last year. "We are thrilled to be grandparents. I think it is our greatest accomplishment."

One of the most versatile athletes locally, Wedemeyer, who was 5 feet 7 and weighed 164 pounds, earned nine varsity letters in high school. He was a first-team all-star with teammate Norm Chow when Punahou won the ILH basketball title in 1964, and played second base on the school's 1965 ILH championship baseball team.

Wedemeyer played in the East-West Shrine Game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, and then came back home to play in the 1969 Hula Bowl. He played two years of semi-pro football for the Lansing (Mich.) All-Stars.

Charlie's greatest accomplishment, though, came as football coach at Los Gatos High School, winning seven league championships and posting a 78-18-1 record — after he was afflicted with ALS. In 1985, his team won the Central Coast Section Championship with Lucy, on the sidelines again, reading his lips and relaying his plays to assistant coaches.

"I think it's important to remember that we will all be confronted with adversity that may seem insurmountable," Charlie said in 2005. "When it does happen, we have to remember that God has given us the freedom of choice: We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves, be bitter and angry, and cause everybody to be miserable. Or we can become a stronger and better person for it.

"Pain and suffering are inevitable — we all experience it. But misery is an option.

"We do get to make that choice."

Raiders release JaMarcus Russell

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders released former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell on Thursday, ending a three-year tenure marked by his high salary and unproductive play on the field.

Senior executive John Herrera told The Associated Press about the move and said that "we wish him well."

The decision came less than two weeks after Oakland acquired Jason Campbell from Washington to take over at quarterback and signifies that owner Al Davis finally lost patience with the immensely talented but unproductive player he drafted first overall in 2007 against the wishes of former coach Lane Kiffin.

Russell will now likely be considered one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, joining Ryan Leaf, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith and others on that list. He will have been paid more than $39 million by the Raiders, while producing only seven wins as a starter.

perfect game, imperfect umpire

DETROIT (AP) — Armando Galarraga squeezed the ball in his mitt, stepped on first base with his right foot and was ready to celebrate the first perfect game in Detroit Tigers’ history.

What happened next will be the talk of baseball for the rest of this season and likely a lot longer.

Umpire Jim Joyce emphatically called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe and a chorus of groans and boos echoed in Comerica Park.

Then Joyce emphatically said he was wrong.

“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the (stuff) out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

“I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay,” he said after the Tigers’ 3-0 win.


DETROIT — Armando Galarraga bitterly sipped a beer minutes after he almost pitched a perfect game, lashing out at first base umpire Jim Joyce for blowing a call on what would have been the final out to negate his place in baseball history.

An apology and hug changed Galarraga's attitude.

Joyce, in tears, asked for a chance to apologize after the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 3-0 Wednesday night.

"You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, `Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry,'" Galarraga said "He felt really bad. He didn't even shower."

MLB declined comment on Joyce's call. As it stands, baseball replays can only be used for questionable home runs. There's no appealing a judgment call, either by replay or protest.

Social networking sites, meanwhile, were buzzing about it.

Galarraga, who was barely known outside of Detroit a day ago, and Joyce, whose career had flourished in relative anonymity, quickly became trending topics on Twitter. At least one anti-Joyce Facebook page was created shortly after the game ended and firejimjoyce.com was launched.

Joyce has been calling balls and strikes and deciding if runners are out or safe as a full-time major league umpire since 1989. He has been respected enough to be on the field for two World Series, 11 other playoff series and a pair of All-Star games.

A split-second decision he made will probably haunt him for the rest of his career.

Joyce emphatically signaled safe when Cleveland's Jason Donald clearly didn't beat a throw to first base for what would've been the last out in Armando Galarraga's perfect game for the Detroit Tigers, setting off a chorus of groans and boos that echoed in Comerica Park.

The instantly infamous play also will add to the argument that Major League Baseball needs to expand its use of replays.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

fan tasered in Philadelphia

Philadelphia police are investigating the Tasering of a 17-year-old Phillies fan who stormed the field Monday night.

Police are reviewing the case to see if it was an appropriate use of force.

The incident occurred at the start of the eighth inning at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies were in the field and the St. Louis Cardinals were preparing to bat.

The teen, wearing a red Phillies National League Champions T-shirt and khaki shorts, was running around the outfield waving a white towel and eluding security. A uniformed bicycle patrol officer pointed the Taser at him, fired and didn't miss, taking the boy down face-first, like the way Pete Rose used to slide, Fox 29's Steve Keeley reported.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ernie Harwell

From the sandy shores of Lake Michigan to the rugged streets in Flint, they listened to Ernie Harwell tell the Tigers' tales for more than 40 years.

Beloved by generations of baseball fans who grew up enraptured by his rich voice, Southern cadence and quirky phrases on the radio, Harwell died Tuesday after a monthslong battle with cancer. He was 92.

Harwell called Orioles games from 1954 to 1959, but he spent 42 of his 55 years in broadcasting with the Tigers.

He announced Detroit games on radio from 1960 to 1991, in 1993 and from 1999 to 2002. He broadcast games on television from 1960 to 1964 and 1994 to 1998.

"What a voice," said longtime Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, the World Series MVP the last time the Tigers won it all in 1984. "He did it with class, he did it with dignity. We shed a tear tonight, that's for sure."

Harwell's big break came in unusual fashion.

Dodgers radio broadcaster Red Barber fell ill in 1948, and general manager Branch Rickey needed a replacement. After learning that the minor league Atlanta Crackers needed a catcher, Rickey sent catcher Cliff Dapper to Atlanta and Harwell joined the Dodgers.

Harwell called more than 8,300 major league games, starting with the Dodgers and continuing with the Giants and Orioles before joining the Tigers. He missed two games outside of the 1992 season: one for his brother's funeral in 1968, the other when he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1989.

The Baseball Hall of Fame honored Harwell in 1981 with the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually to a broadcaster for major contributions to baseball.

A life-sized statue of Harwell stands at the entrance to Comerica Park and its press box is called "The Ernie Harwell Media Center."