Tuesday, November 30, 2010

US U-20s fall in penalties to Colombia

Alex Zahavi had himself a US international debut to remember on Friday night in Kennesaw, Georgia. The Maccabi Haifa F.C. midfielder scored the United States U-20s' only goal in the opening match of the Torneo de las Americas.

His 48th minute tally came on an assist from West Ham's Sebastian Lletget, who headed LA Galaxy striker Tristan Bowen's cross into the path of his teammate. The strike looked as though it would hold up as the game-winner until Fabian Castillo equalized for Colombia four minutes from time.

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Ben Olsen Q&A

On Monday, November 29, D.C. United unveiled Ben Olsen as the club's seventh Head Coach. Despite a rocky 2010 campaign, Olsen brought stability to the Black-and-Red in a time of crisis, taking over on an interim basis ahead of United's August 7 contest at New England. Olsen won his first career match as a Head Coach on August 22 in a 2-0 home triumph over the Philadelphia Union. Initially Olsen was charged with restoring the pride and grit commonly associated with D.C.

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LeBron James, Heat Unifying Nation in Unexpected Ways

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CLEVELAND -- The Miami Heat have put on quite a show this season with LeBron James' talents in South Beach.

Said show is often comical, at times absurd, but never tragic. At least not to the huge majority of the country, where in a complete reversal of all that is American and Apple Pie, folks are enjoying someone's failings.

This is what the Miami Heat has wrought. More specifically, this is what James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have wrought.

In joining together and trying to form a super-team, in ripping a city's heart out on national TV, in hosting a rally worthy of VJ Day in Miami Arena, in talking about having "arguably the best trio to ever play the game of basketball," in mentioning winning five ... six championships before they even played a game together, the Heat and the Heat's trio have become the team and group everyone loves to see lose.


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Steve Nash 'Not Worried About Trade Talk,' Just Wants to Win

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There are less cookies these days for Steve Nash to not eat.

It's a tradition on the Phoenix Suns that, whenever they win a road game, players all eat cookies. Well, everyone on the team except Nash.

"He won't even eat a cookie. He's that committed,'' teammate Jared Dudley said about the point guard, whose disciplined diet includes not eating sugar.

Still, Nash, being the ultimate team player, would love to see his teammates gobbling down lots of post-game treats this season. But it's not looking good.

After an embarrassing 138-133 loss Monday at Denver, where no cookies and only frowns were served up in the Suns' locker room, they dropped to 8-9. Consider that this is a team that averaged 55 wins a season in the six years after Nash signed as a free agent in the summer of 2004.

"It's disappointing, obviously, the losses,'' Nash said in an interview with FanHouse about how this season has begun. "We made so much change from a team that was close to the Finals last year. But, considering all the changes, it's not an awful situation. It's just not what we're used to.''


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Ask Ben Olsen a question

UPDATE: Ben Olsen was unable to answer questions today. He's going to try and answer a few tomorrow.

Ask Ben Olsen a question below and he'll answer them on Tuesday, November 30 Wednesday, December 1. Check this page regularly for updates and responses or follow our Twitter or Facebook accounts to updates - we'll send out alerts each time Ben responds to questions.

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Kyle Busch Wins Nationwide Race, Danica Patrick Leads Lap, Finishes 19th

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As Kyle Busch motored to a comfortable victory in the Nationwide season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday, Danica Patrick led her first lap in NASCAR racing before settling for a 19th-place finish, nonetheless her best ever in the series.

Busch dominated the event before winning by about a second over Kevin Harvick. Series champion Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.

It was Busch's record-settiing 13th victory in the Nationwide series this year, and it clinched the owner's championship for Joe Gibbs Racing, even though Keselowski won the driver's title. Busch did not run in every race this year and thus did not compete for the driver's title.

"That says it all right there, boys!" Busch shouted on his radio as he took the checkered flag. "You guys are the stuff. I can't do it without you guys. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

"This is fun," he added while still circling the track. "This is what it is all about. I wish I had something for tomorrow, but we'll play with teammates tomorrow and try to get them one."


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Steve Nash 'Not Worried About Trade Talk,' Just Wants to Win

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There are less cookies these days for Steve Nash to not eat.

It's a tradition on the Phoenix Suns that, whenever they win a road game, players all eat cookies. Well, everyone on the team except Nash.

"He won't even eat a cookie. He's that committed,'' teammate Jared Dudley said about the point guard, whose disciplined diet includes not eating sugar.

Still, Nash, being the ultimate team player, would love to see his teammates gobbling down lots of post-game treats this season. But it's not looking good.

After an embarrassing 138-133 loss Monday at Denver, where no cookies and only frowns were served up in the Suns' locker room, they dropped to 8-9. Consider that this is a team that averaged 55 wins a season in the six years after Nash signed as a free agent in the summer of 2004.

"It's disappointing, obviously, the losses,'' Nash said in an interview with FanHouse about how this season has begun. "We made so much change from a team that was close to the Finals last year. But, considering all the changes, it's not an awful situation. It's just not what we're used to.''


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Steve Phillips' Fix My Team: Marlins

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Every team has a few precious months in the offseason to make tweaks to their roster and ensure that they improve in 2011. Steve Phillips has taken a team to the World Series before, and in November and December he will present his plan for every major league team to get there as well. It's the 12th episode of Fix My Team, and his latest project is the Florida Marlins.


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2010 in Review: Q&A with D.C. United's Olsen

WASHINGTON ? When Ben Olsen retired from a 12-year career last October, he had no idea he?d be in charge of his former team a mere 10 months later. But as D.C. United continued to struggle, Curt Onalfo was let go this past August and Olsen, an assistant coach, was handed the reins as interim head coach.

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Kasey Kahne Wins Pole for NASCAR Finale, Jimmie Johnson Leads Contenders

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kasey Kahne won the pole position for Sunday's Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while four-time defending Cup champ Jimmie Johnson's sixth-place effort was best of the three drivers vying for the season championship.

Kahne's No. 83 Red Bull Toyota turned a lap of 176.904 mph around the 1.5-mile oval, bettering Carl Edwards' Ford and Jamie McMurray's Chevrolet. (Kahne is shown at right checking times during qualifying).

But as significant as who will be starting up front is who won't be. Championship points leader Denny Hamlin, who holds a tenuous 15-point edge over Johnson, will start 37th in the 43-car field. Kevin Harvick, who trails Hamlin by 46 points, will roll off 28th.

"It was tough ... but our car is gonna be fine tomorrow,'' Hamlin said. "We know that. This is a track you can pass (at). We're looking forward to that part of it. Friday has just never been our strong suit and so we gotta battle back again."

Harvick, who has started better then 20th only one time since August, didn't appear overly concerned with his starting position. He finished third at Martinsville, Va., last month after starting 36th and was runner-up at Las Vegas despite starting 34th.

"I thought we might have been a little better, but not much,'' said Harvick, who drives the No.. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy. "Everybody on the car did a really good job. ... We've been talking about where we want to pit here, the same thing we do every week.

"Our car was very comfortable in race trim and we are ready to go.''


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IMG Shows Strength as ATP Puppet Board Refuses to Self-Investigate

by Greg Couch

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Ted ForstmannA major sports gambling scandal with a nice, neat and quick conclusion. No mess, no fuss. Does that pass the smell test?

The ATP World Tour, the men's tennis tour, is trying to slip one past you. Ted Forstmann, the CEO of IMG (pictured), bet on tennis. He allegedly called Roger Federer, an IMG client who Forstmann says is a friend, before a match and got inside information.

And apparently, there is no investigation; not of Forstmann, not of Federer. None of tennis' governing bodies has even bothered to call the guy making the accusation, while the things he has said keep turning out to be true.

I'm calling B.S. on the ATP. There is no way this was within the rules. So why is the ATP letting it go?

Maybe Gavin Forbes knows. He's a Senior Vice President at IMG.

Maybe David Egdes knows. He's an executive at the Tennis Channel, which is partially owned by IMG. He also used to work for IMG.


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DeMarcus Cousins Kicked Out of Kings Practice After Arguing With Coach

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When the Kings debated drafting DeMarcus Cousins fifth overall out of Kentucky in the June draft, they were well aware that the decision was a classic risk-vs.-reward quandary.

Four-plus months after taking the risk and hoping for the reward, the former is far outweighing the latter.

After two incidents in mid-October led to a $5,000 team fine and the revelation that Cousins had been living up to his reputation for unpredictability, he was kicked out of practice on Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Kings coach Paul Westphal disclosed his decision to the newspaper but didn't disclose his reasoning. Yet three sources with knowledge of the situation told FanHouse that Cousins was booted for having numerous arguments with Westphal during practice.

The situation, according to one team source, is hardly anything new in what has been a frustrating start for the 20-year-old and his 4-11 team.


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Tiger Woods Lays Up During ESPN Radio's 'Mike and Mike' Interview

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Tiger WoodsThe true purpose of Tiger Woods' much ballyhooed interview with ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike In The Morning was revealed about five minutes after the interview ended. That's when co-host Mike Greenberg read the first of a number of plugs for Woods' golf event next month.

In other words, just like virtually every other interview on Mike and Mike with an active professional athlete, where the celebrity in question answers a couple of questions about the season to date, then touts his commercial sponsor, Woods got the word out about his event without having to get his hands dirty.

In a roughly 25-minute interview over two segments, Woods broke no new ground from the story he has offered the past year. He declined to provide any details about the Thanksgiving Day accident at his home, he said precious little about whom he has taken advice from and he added nothing to speculation that he might have taken human growth hormones. Woods wouldn't even take a shot at Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne, who famously chided him before the Masters this year about his behavior. As Greenberg rightly pointed out, Woods' answers, in many cases, sounded like he was parroting a therapist.

In fairness to Greenberg and co-host Mike Golic, they were put in a no-win situation. They were asked to interview a man who has notoriously kept a wall between himself and the public, parceling out just enough of himself to say that he made the attempt. Recognizing that, the pair attempted before the interview started to lower expectations, first by saying that they weren't going to try to make themselves into Barbara Walters or Mike Wallace, and then by declaring that they would not explore the salacious details of last Thanksgiving and its aftermath.

To their credit, the two of them, and particularly Golic, the former defensive lineman, pressed Woods to the degree that they were allowed to, both by the limits of time and by the evasiveness of the interviewee.


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Mark Cuban Says He Recruited LeBron to Mavericks

by Jordan Schultz

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When LeBron James announced he would be taking his talents to South Beach in front of the whole world, Dan Gilbert wasn't the only owner left feeling sick.

Mark Cuban, the boisterous and often controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks, says he vehemently courted 'The King' and his business manager, Maverick Carter, during LeBron's free agent bonanza last summer. He did so through a barrage of text messages after the July 1 start of free agency with the main message that James' best shot at a title was with Dallas, and not Miami.

He envisioned James teaming up with All-Star point guard Jason Kidd along with superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki and that he in turn would provide him with a quality set of ancillary parts.

"Before he made his decision, what I told [James] ... and what I told Maverick was no team had ever blown up their team to ground zero -- well, I shouldn't use those words -- blown their team up of all of their core, and then added a couple of free agents and won a championship," Cuban told ESPN's Michael Wallace before the Heat played the Mavericks on Saturday at American Airlines Center. "It's always taken someone to come into a good team, make it better, and put it over the top. That's what I told him, and that's what I told Maverick."


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BCS Rankings: Auburn Passes Oregon, TCU Still Third, Stanford Now Fourth

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Auburn and Oregon swapped spots atop the BCS rankings released Sunday, but the most important thing for the Tigers and Ducks is to remain first or second when the final rankings are released on Dec. 5.

Auburn (12-0) had been second to Oregon (11-0) the past four weeks, but barely slipped past the Ducks as the No. 1 BCS-ranked team after the Tigers' win at Alabama Friday. The Ducks also were impressive, defeating Arizona, but still slipped to No. 2.

The top two teams in next week's final BCS rankings advance to the BCS title game Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.

TCU (12-0) remained No. 3 but since Boise State (10-1), which was No. 4 last week, was upset at Nevada and plummeted in the latest rankings, the Horned Frogs are guaranteed their first BCS bowl berth as the highest ranked non-automatic qualifying BCS team.

LSU (10-2), ranked No. 5 last week, also lost on Friday, allowing Stanford (11-1) to climb two spots to No. 4 this week.

That is significant for the Cardinal because the top four ranked teams in next week's final BCS rankings are guaranteed a BCS bowl berth. Since TCU, Stanford and Wisconsin, which is fifth this week, have completed their regular season schedules, it is highly unlikely Stanford would fall lower than fourth in next week's rankings, guaranteeing the Cardinal a BCS bowl berth.


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Josh McDaniels Attempts to Stay Course Amid Swirl of Tumultuous Season

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has been getting plenty of attention lately -- none of it good.

On Monday, he admitted to bruised feelings over the relentless criticism that has come at him in waves -- from widespread displeasure over some of his personnel decisions and the Broncos' disintegrating season to disgust over the improper videotaping of an opponent's practice.

"I'm not oblivious to that. I'm human," said McDaniels, who heard catcalls and boos from the home crowd when his name was announced during Sunday's pregame introductions. Some people in the stands even held signs demanding that McDaniels be fired.

"The one thing I can do is try to control the things I can control and focus on what I can focus on and do my job. And live the right way and do the right things," he added.

With the Broncos' problems mushrooming on several fronts, he was asked publicly for the first time Monday if he was concerned about his job security. McDaniels still has two years remaining on his deal at $3 million per season.

"It's not my decision," he said. "It's not something that is under my control. I'm just going to worry about what I can focus on and try to control the things that I can control."

The mounting losses are at the core of McDaniels' problems. The Broncos, who play at AFC West leading Kansas City next Sunday, fell to 3-8 this season following a 36-33 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. They are 5-16 under McDaniels since last year's 6-0 start, the worst stretch by the team in some 40 years.

McDaniels also has been haunted by some personnel moves, jettisoning cornerback Alphonso Smith in a trade with Detroit after trading away a first-round pick last year to snag him in the second round in 2009.

Wanting to get younger, faster and bigger in the offensive line in the offseason, he let go veteran center Casey Wiegmann, who is now in Kansas City, anchoring the line for the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack. The Broncos' have the league's 31st-ranked running game.

But his worst move was the trade of running back Peyton Hillis to Cleveland in exchange for quarterback Brady Quinn. Hillis, who has scored 11 touchdowns in 11 games and is on the brink of a 1,000-yard season, is starting to be mentioned as a possible MVP candidate while Quinn hasn't played at all this season as the Broncos' third, or emergency quarterback.

On Saturday, in a scandal that tarnished the Broncos' reputation in the community and throughout the league, the NFL fined McDaniels and the team $50,000 each for failing to inform the league in a timely manner about the secret videotaping by a Broncos employee of a 49ers practice the day before the teams played in London last month. The Broncos lost to the 49ers 24-16.

The Broncos said their cameraman, Steve Scarnecchia, acted on his own, and when he approached McDaniels with the 49ers' videotape later that same day, McDaniels refused to look at it and ordered the video file purged from the computer. Scarnecchia has since been fired but the NFL sanctioned McDaniels and the Broncos because of the 10-day lapse in letting the league know about the episode. The league mandates the prompt reporting of any incident relating to the integrity of the game.

McDaniels on Saturday issued a public apology for failing to inform the league right away , but the fallout has continued from the episode, which stirred memories of the original "Spygate" in New England, where both Scarnecchia and McDaniels previously worked.

A report by Fox Sports suggested that McDaniels, during a meeting with his assistants, drew a sharp contrast between the Broncos' videotape of the 49ers practice and the New England "Spygate" matter. He purportedly described the Broncos situation as a one-time incident while telling his staff that the New England videotaping involved a more systemic regimen that took place over a period of years. That's nothing different from what the NFL has said about the two incidents, however.

McDaniels did not address the Fox report in detail, saying what goes on and what is said in staff meetings "are very private things." At the same time, he said he doesn't think his staff has fractured over the avalanche of negative attention brought by the videotaping controversy.


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One Final Go-Round for PGA Tour 2010

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Phil and Amy Mickelson after his Masters win

The PGA Tour season ended Sunday -- 45 weeks and 46 tournaments after it began the first week of January.

There were 39 different winners. Ninety players earned more than $1 million each. Jim Furyk topped the tour in wins -- three -- including the Tour Championship. Matt Kuchar, with only one victory but 11 top 10s, claimed the money title with $4,910,477.

Europe beat the U.S. to win the Ryder Cup. Tiger Woods went oh-for-2010, the first winless season of his pro career. Vijay Singh, ranked among the world's top 20 players since 1997, finished this year 86th.

England's Lee Westwood, despite only one 2010 win worldwide and still without a major championship, took over the world No. 1 ranking, bumping Tiger from top the spot after 281 consecutive weeks.

Matt Every was suspended for three months of the season after a marijuana possession arrest in his hotel room in Silvis, Ill., while at the John Deere.

John Daly wasn't arrested.

Dustin Johnson missed a chance to win the PGA Championship because of a two-stroke penalty incurred on the 72nd hole for grounding his club in a bunker that he didn't know was a bunker -- because he didn't bother to read the local rules sheet.

Fred Couples turned 50 and went to the Champions Tour.

Paul Goydos (first round of the John Deere) and Stuart Appleby (final round, Greenbrier) shot 59s.

John Daly didn't get divorced.

Phil Mickelson won the Masters for his fourth career major, but other than announcing he was going vegetarian, didn't do anything interesting the rest of the year.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy became the season's youngest winner -- 20 year, 11 months, 28 days -- at Quail Hollow.

Rocco Mediate was the oldest -- 37 years, 10 months -- winning the Frys.com.

John Daly didn't trash a hotel room.

And you thought the year was boring.

Actually, there were more memorable moments than the statistics might suggest:


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Troubled Canuck Takes Leave of Absence

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The Vancouver Canucks granted troubled centre Rick Rypien an indefinite leave of absence Thursday.

The Canucks announced that the leave was "for personal matters" but declined to divulge details.

"(Rypien) is a valued member of the organization and the club will continue to support Rick in every way possible," said a team news release. "No further comment will be made by the club on this matter."

The leave comes after Rypien, 26, returned from a six-game suspension Nov. 6 for tussling with a fan in Minnesota.

"It's a real eye-opener for me, so I think I'm going to come back real strong and better than ever," said Rypien a few days after the suspension was handed down. "I think I'm going to be more focused and more determined to play the game that I love the most."

Following his return, he played sparingly in six consecutive games, recording one assist for his lone point of the season. He was scratched from Vancouver's past two contests.

He has played nine games this season while racking up 31 minutes in penalties and sporting a minus-five mark. The most ice time he received in a game was 7:58 on Oct. 15 against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Coleman, Alta., native is known for fighting bigger and heavier opponents - and often winning. The leave continues a difficult stretch in which he has battled injuries and personal matters the past two seasons. He was limited to 69 games in 2009-10 and just 12 in 2008-09.


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Unless Peyton Manning's Perfect, Banged-Up Colts Can't Win

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Peyton ManningINDIANAPOLIS -- You can sit there and say you saw this coming. The Chargers own Peyton Manning, and everybody knows this. He's got a lower career quarterback rating against them than he has against any other team but one (the Cleveland Browns, for some reason). And after he threw four interceptions against them in a brutal 36-14 home loss Sunday night, he's up to 16 interceptions in seven career games against San Diego. There are only two teams -- the Patriots and Dolphins -- to whom he's thrown more, and he's played 16 and 12 games against those teams, respectively.

So yeah, you can sit there and say you saw this coming, but if you're saying you saw the Chargers waxing Manning's Colts by 22 in their own building without a big game from Philip Rivers, I'm calling shenanigans. No matter what the numbers say, it was stunning to see the Colts play this bad a game at home, coming off a loss and performing on a national-TV stage.

What this game taught us, though, was a simple and (for Indianapolis) scary lesson. Right now, the way they're built, the Colts can't win if Manning isn't brilliant. And given the Colts' current injury and depth issues, Manning's margin for error may be at an all-time low.


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Gamecocks Show Razor-Sharp Focus in Rout of Rival Clemson

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South Carolina ClemsonCLEMSON, S.C. -- Three weeks ago, South Carolina got a valuable lesson in motivation.

A showdown in The Swamp with Florida for the Gamecocks' first SEC East title loomed, but they had to get through a meaningless home game with Arkansas first.

And they played like it, too. The Razorbacks rolled them, 41-10, and coach Steve Spurrier later admitted his team lacked proper focus.

Saturday night, USC got another chance to show consistency -- and take a chokehold on the Palmetto State in the process. The East title was in their pocket, and an SEC title showdown with Auburn lay seven days away.

Would the Gamecocks have enough single-minded focus to handle arch rival Clemson?

On the floor of Death Valley, USC showed it had excellent tunnel vision.

Despite spotting the Tigers an early 7-0 lead, the Gamecocks scored the game's final 29 points for a 29-7 rout.

South Carolina improved to 9-3 and will face Auburn next week in the SEC title game. Clemson fell to 6-6 and will learn its bowl destination next Sunday.

"It springboards a lot," said USC quarterback Stephen Garcia. "It was big coming in here and playing against a Clemson team that's a rival. They were looking to knock us down and we fought hard. Defense played outstanding. That was a big win for us, huge win for us."


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Georgia Outlasts Rival Georgia Tech, Becomes Bowl Eligible

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Georgia Georgia TechATHENS, Ga. -- Georgians refer to the rivalry between the state's two football powers as "clean, old-fashioned hate."

Only the "hate" part applied Saturday at Sanford Stadium.

Miscues dirtied up the 105th meeting and defensive apathy made it anything but old-fashioned. In the end, the team to make all its extra points won.

Georgia escaped 42-34 in a game largely decided by a missed point after touchdown from Georgia Tech's Scott Blair. The senior pushed the would-be game-tying kick wide left with 4 minutes, 57 seconds to go and his team down 35-34.

The Yellow Jackets, out of timeouts with less than two minutes remaining, let Georgia score a touchdown in order to get the ball back for a chance to tie. But Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington threw a game-ending interception in the closing seconds.

"What a heartbreaker," Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "That's a game we could have won."

Georgia needed the victory more, however. The win evens the Bulldogs record at 6-6 and makes them bowl-eligible. They now have the right to play in a pizza bowl, or at least a bowl formerly known as a pizza bowl. Georgia is likely headed to the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit or the old PapaJohns.com bowl in Birmingham, now known as the BBVA Compass Bowl.


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Sidney Crosby's Unique Hat Trick

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Sidney Crosby registered his sixth career hat trick during the Penguins 4-1 win against Calgary on Saturday, and he not only recorded his 200th career goal in the process, he scored three goals in three different ways: Even strength, power play and shorthanded (which was also an empty net goal). Making things even more interesting is the fact he had an opportunity to score on a penalty shot in the first period, only to be turned aside on a spectacular save by Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who was outstanding in net, keeping his team in the game when it was outplayed for much of the afternoon.

The first goal, the even strength tally, came on an odd-man rush that was set up by Chris Kunitz, while the power play goal came on a slight deflection from in the slot off of a Paul Martin slap shot from the point. He completed the hat trick late in the third period when the Penguins were in a 6-on-4 situation (shorthanded combined with the Flames pulling their goalie for the extra attacker) allowing Crosby to score from his own end of the ice.

It would have been interesting had he been able to score on the penalty shot, as it would have brought back some memories of Mario Lemieux's New Years Eve performance in 1988 when he scored five goals, five different ways; still one of the best -- if not the best -- single game performances in the history of the league.


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2010 in Review: Q&A with D.C. United's Olsen

WASHINGTON ? When Ben Olsen retired from a 12-year career last October, he had no idea he?d be in charge of his former team a mere 10 months later. But as D.C. United continued to struggle, Curt Onalfo was let go this past August and Olsen, an assistant coach, was handed the reins as interim head coach.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bob Uecker Shows Humor Still Intact on Upcoming MLB Network Special

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Bob Uecker and Bob CostasSECAUCUS, N.J. -- Two surgeries on his heart in the past eight months did not remove Bob Uecker's sense of humor.

Uecker, the self-deprecating Brewers radio broadcaster also known for his work in ads, late-night talk shows, movies and a sitcom, is the featured guest Friday on MLB Network's "Studio 42 with Bob Costas."

Costas taped the interview with Uekcer, his former broadcast partner with the Baseball Network and NBC, in late September. In it, Uecker -- the self-proclaimed "Mr. Baseball" -- discussed his appearances on the "Tonight" show with Johnny Carson, in Miller Lite ads, in "Major League" and on "Mr. Belvedere."

But, especially with Costas as willing straight man, every subject allows Uecker, 75, to mock himself. In six seasons with the Braves, Phillies and Cardinals, Uecker batted .200 and started just 217 games.


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For Mandi Schwartz and Family, Truly Time To Be Thankful

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SEATTLE - The Schwartz family can barely recall this Thanksgiving. Not the American one on Thursday, but the Canadian one last month.

The daughter was near death. About all Mandi Schwartz remembers is hallucinating about her fiancé. The brothers were away at college, shielded from the sight of their sister with up to 13 IV bags dripping into her body.

The parents?

"I can't remember a lot of it. I think it was too much to handle," Rick Schwartz said recently. "I'm starting to forget things. My mind's going a little bit."

They are from Saskatchewan, where Thanksgiving was observed Oct. 11. Back then the Schwartzes were just thankful Mandi was alive. Now they have reason to celebrate.

"You feel like she's got a life again," Rick said.


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Oklahoma Has History On Side in Three-Way Big 12 South Tiebreaker

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STILLWATER, Okla. - Forgive the Oklahoma Sooners if they feel like they've been in this situation before and feel good about their chances.

For the second time in three seasons, the Big 12 South ends the regular-season in a three-way tie for first place - this time with OU, Texas A&M and OSU at the top. And again it appears a favorable BCS ranking when the latest standings come out later Sunday will allow Oklahoma to move on to the Big 12 Championship Game.

The 10th-ranked Cowboys (No. 9 BCS) led both No. 14 OU (No. 13 BCS) and No. 17 Texas A&M (No. 17) in last week's BCS rankings, but with OU upsetting OSU, 47-41, in Saturday night's regular-season ending Bedlam Series, the expectation is the Sooners jump ahead of the Cowboys. Texas A&M, which lost to OSU earlier in the season but beat OU three weeks ago, is a long shot to make that big a jump following a convincing victory over struggling Texas on Thursday night.

Just like 2008 when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech all finished at the top with 7-1 league records after beating up on each other, the Sooners, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State all finished with 6-2 records in a year where they exchanged wins and losses. The Sooners advanced to the Big 12 Championship in 2008 and eventually met Florida for the BCS national title under a similar set of circumstances.


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Kevin Harvick Comes Full Circle From Dramatic Cup Debut

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Sitting on stage just to the left of his two championship rivals for a final NASCAR championship contenders press conference, Kevin Harvick leaned back in his chair and smiled, listening to Sprint Cup series points leader Denny Hamlin and second place Jimmie Johnson trade barbs and confidently explain how they planned to rise to the occasion in Sunday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

At times they looked awkward and uncomfortable with the situation -- each arguing the other was under greater pressure -- while Harvick, a 46-point third place underdog, couldn't have appeared more settled, looking every bit his nickname, "Happy" Harvick.

Pressure? That was 10 years ago.

"It seems like it has worked backwards for me with coming in and taking over Dale's (Earnhardt) car,'' said Harvick, 35, who was picked by Richard Childress to drive the late seven-time champion's car in the days after Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

"You started with the biggest press conference you'll ever be a part of in your whole life. You start with the weight of the world on your shoulders. As it's gone through the years, it's actually gotten easier. It's almost like you've gotten prepared for these situations before you even got started.

"There is no pressure this week. It's so easy, we're having fun, we're relaxed. We realize we have a small deficit to overcome and we've done it throughout the year beating both cars. So we're having fun with it.''


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Twins Win Right to Negotiate With Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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The Christmas shopping season officially started on Friday and the Twins didn't waste much time picking up their first item.

Their doorbuster wasn't a discounted television or digital camera, but the rights to sign Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka as a free agent. They won those rights by having the highest bid in the posting process started by Chiba Lotte Marines, Nishioka's club in Japan. The details of the winning bid haven't been officially disclosed, although Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that it was for $5.3 million.

The Twins now have 30 days to sign Nishioka to a contract. The A's and Hisashi Iwakuma will tell you that this is hardly an insignificant stumbling block, so it's best not to consider all your holiday shopping done on the first day. Still, there's good reason to think that the Twins are going to make this happen.


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Heisman Watch: Cam Newton's Stock Rises, Kellen Moore's Falls

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Heisman Watch is a look at 2010 Heisman Trophy candidates. It is not intended to serve as an opinion piece about who should win, instead it's intended to be a gauge of how all voters across the country seem to be leaning.

With a huge weekend in the books, we have a bit more clarity on the Heisman Trophy situation. If Kellen Moore was going to seriously challenge for the Trophy, his Boise State Broncos had to run the table. With the loss to Nevada, his chances plummet. And with the big Auburn comeback in the Iron Bowl, Cam Newton has definitely solidified his place atop the Heisman world.

The Front-Runner

Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Last week: Auburn got stomped in Alabama for almost an entire half, and then came back to stun the Crimson Tide and likely catapult itself into the BCS Championship. Newton three for 216 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown in the effort. The rushing TD gave him the Auburn school record (meaning a quarterback surpassed Bo Jackson and Cadillac Williams). He now trails Moore by just 5.2 points in efficiency rating (and no one else is within 20 of Moore) and is tied for second in rushing touchdowns.
Remaining: vs. South Carolina (SEC championship)
Chances: Let's bottom line this. If there was no off-field controversy, there wouldn't even be a need to vote. The only way someone doesn't vote for Newton is if a) a voter doesn't want to fall into a Reggie Bush situation and have the Trophy given back a few years (if that) down the line, or b) a voter is incredibly biased for a different candidate or against Newton/Auburn. I honestly don't even think his performance against South Carolina has any bearing on this.


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Switch to International Calendar Could Shift MLS Cup Final to Early June

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A few hours before last Sunday's MLS Cup Final kicked off in Toronto, league commissioner Don Garber said he caught a glimpse at some highlights from that day's Canadian Football League playoff game out in Calgary.

"There are people sitting in the snow, and they're all bundled up," he said. "Why wouldn't they go to a soccer game if it's in that weather? Assume you have a heated field. Assume the players can play."

Some day in the not-so-distant future, that scenario could transition from rhetorical question to North American soccer reality. (It's a Dutch reality in the photo above).

Under pressure from FIFA to adhere more closely to the sport's traditional rhythms, and well aware that the game's capricious governing body is scheduled to render a verdict on the U.S.'s 2022 World Cup bid next Thursday, MLS will "really seriously begin investigating aligning our league with the (fall-to-spring) international calendar," Garber told reporters at BMO Field.

"We are going to make a serious effort to investigate the steps that we would need to take to determine whether or not we can change our calendar." Success, he said, will depend on "growing the fan base, so ultimately they believe enough in their clubs and they're willing to come out thick and thin to support their teams."


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Miami's Sad Game of Jenga Toppling Over

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LeBron JamesORLANDO, Fla. -- With North Korea threatening to start World War III, unemployment almost 10 percent and TSA agents groping millions of Americans, the president weighed in on a matter of real national security Wednesday.

The Miami Heat. If they continue to fizzle worse than the Greek economy, will America die of laughter?

The Greatest Team Ever Assembled lost its third straight game Wednesday night on ESPN. Over on ABC, Barack Obama tried to explain it all to Barbara Walters.

"It takes some time for a team to come together. There's no 'I' in team," he said. "So no matter how good a player is, no matter how good a group of players are, if they haven't played together before they are not going to be as good as a team that has played together a long time."

The analysis was a bit obvious, but the No. 1 Fan probably didn't have his teleprompter handy. He should have said he relates to what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are going through.

They are the Obama Administration of the NBA. Long on promise, short on delivery. Let's just hope the similarities end there or we may all be speaking Korean soon.

The 104-95 loss left Miami with an 8-7 record. The Heat weren't supposed to lose that many games until the 2012 election, were they?


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No Trophy for Nebraska as Feud With Big 12 Conference Furthered

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Bo PeliniThe ongoing, albeit subtle in a way, feud between the Big 12 and soon-to-be-departed Nebraska added another layer Friday. The Huskers blew away Colorado, 45-17, to win the Big 12 North, though the team was not presented the trophy by a conference representative as is usually the custom.

To hear it from many Cornhuskers fans, the Big 12 is just blatantly slapping Nebraska in the face because commissioner Dan Beebe and the conference are bitter Nebraska is leaving next season for the Big Ten. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne got a different story.

"They didn't think it would be safe to send somebody up," Osborne said, referencing "nasty" e-mails the Big 12 said it had received from Huskers fans. "That's the word I got."

Bo Pelini's Huskers moved to 10-2 (6-2 in Big 12) after dominating also-departing Colorado (which will be in the Pac-12 next year). Nebraska will likely face the winner of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game next Saturday -- though it's possible Texas A&M could sneak in there, the Aggies are a longshot to win the tiebreaker, which is the team with the highest spot in the BCS rankings.

In fairness to the Big 12, the trophy could still be delivered quite soon.


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