Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CBS3 to air Villanova special

CBS3, which will air the Villanova-North Carolina National Semifinal Game on Saturday, will produce a special on the team Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Beasley Reece will host and Don Bell will be in Detroit.

HBO's Real Sports to profile Charlie Manuel

HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel is profiling Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel during its April episode.

The first airing is April 14.

Cutler to be traded

Just got this release from the Denver Broncos:

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos President and CEO Pat Bowlen today released the following statement:

“Numerous attempts to contact Jay Cutler in the last 10 days, both by Head Coach Josh McDaniels and myself, have been unsuccessful.

A conversation with his agent earlier today clearly communicated and confirmed to us that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos.

We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded.”

Sixers' Young leaves with sprained ankle

Sixers forward Thaddeus Young left tonight's game against the Atlanta Hawks late in the first quarter after suffering a sprained right ankle.

Young attempted to block a shot from Atlanta's Josh Smith and his right ankle landed on Smith's foot, leaving the second-year star writhing in paint.

Young was carried off the court by two teammates. An X-ray came back negative but Young could be sidelined for a while.

Young is averaging 15.3 points per game and had scored 20 or more points in each of the Sixers' past seven games.

UFC at the Wachovia Center this August?

By Charles Cieri, Philadelphia CityPaper

According to multiple reports and even more sources close to the action it appears that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Mixed Martial Arts’ flagship league, has gotten on their hurry-up in an attempt to capitalize on the recent sanctioning of MMA in PA. From what we’re hearing UFC 101 will be appearing live from the Wachovia Center this August. More >>

Eagles re-sign Cole

The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed C/G Nick Cole to a one-year contract Tuesday. Cole had been a restricted free agent.

A rookie free agent signee of the Eagles in 2006, the 24-year-old Cole has seen action in all 53 regular and postseason contests at guard, center, and as a blocking back. In 2008, Cole filled in admirably for the injured Max Jean-Gilles, who was replacing an injured Shawn Andrews at right guard. He started the final four regular season games and all three postseason games at right guard.

You wanted Happ

The Phils picked Chan Ho Park as their fifth starter today, not a popular decision.

In our poll, 31 percent of you wanted J.A. Happ followed by 24 percent for Carlos Carrasco and 23 percent for Kyle Kendrick. Park had 20 percent.

Phils pick Park

Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. announced today that Chan Ho Park has beaten out J.A. Happ for the fifth starter's job.

Happ is now battling with Gary Majewski, Jack Taschner and Bobby Mosebach for two bullpen jobs.

Amaro also said the Phillies have contacted the agent for Gary Sheffield, who the Tigers just released, would be a replacement for the released Geoff Jenkins.

Eagled to look at Tennessee defensive end

Pro Football Talk is reporting that University of Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers is scheduled to visit the Eagles.

Ayers, who previously visited the Buffalo Bills, is also set to visit the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots.

Last season, Ayers had a career-high 49 tackles, 15 1/2 stuffs and three sacks.

Ayers, who has 4.77 speed in the 40-yard dash, doesn't seem like a good fit. Most teams interested in him view him as a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect.

Cunningham, Christmas and Nivins named honorable mention All-Americans

Villanova's Dante Cunningham, Temple's Dionte Christmas and Saint Joseph's Ahmad Nivins were all named honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press.

Other local players honored were Tyreke Evans, the Memphis freshman from Chester, who was also named honorable mention and Duke's Gerald Henderson (Episcopal Academy) was named to the third team.

Here is the voting:


Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, 6-10, 251, sophomore, Oklahoma City, 21.9 ppg, 14.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 63.5 fg pct (71 first-place votes, 335 points)
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina, 6-9, 250, senior, Poplar Bluff, Mo., 21.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 52.2 fg pct, 85.6 ft pct (50, 304)
DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, 6-7, 265, sophomore, Pittsburgh, 15.6 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 59.9 fg pct, 1.5 steals (49, 294)
James Harden, Arizona State, 6-5, 218, sophomore, Los Angeles, 20.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 35.8 minutes, 50.2 fg pct (45, 290)
Stephen Curry, Davidson, 6-3, 185, junior, Charlotte, N.C., 28.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.7 apg, 87.6 ft pct, 2.6 steals (49, 288)


Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut, 7-3, 263, junior, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 13.7, 10.9 rpg, 4.6 blocks, 64.3 fg pct (19, 238)
Ty Lawson, North Carolina, 5-11, 195, junior, Clinton, Md., 15.9 ppg, 6.5 apg, 46.7 3-pt fg pct, 80.9 ft pct, 2.0 steals (28, 232)
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame, 6-8, 255, junior, Schererville, Ind., 23.2 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 2.1 apg (6, 135)
Jodie Meeks, Kentucky, 6-4, 208, junior, Norcross, Ga., 24.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 40.1 3-pt fg pct, 89.7 ft pct (8, 117)
Jerel McNeal, Marquette, 6-3, 200, senior, Chicago, 19.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.8 apg, 40.6 3-pt fg pct (7, 114)


Terrence Williams, Louisville, 6-6, 215, senior, Seattle, 12.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.5 steals (4, 103)
Sherron Collins, Kansas, 5-11, 200, junior, Chicago, 18.3 ppg, 5.0 apg (3, 94)
Toney Douglas, Florida State, 6-2, 200, senior, Jonesboro, Ga., 21.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 36.4 minutes, 1.9 steals (4, 85)
Sam Young, Pittsburgh, 6-6, 220, senior, Clinton, Md., 18.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg (1, 79)
Gerald Henderson, Duke, 6-4, 215, junior, Merion, Pa., 16.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg (4, 74)


Jeff Adrien, Connecticut; Josh Akognon, Cal State Fullerton; Cole Aldrich, Kansas; Alex Barnett, Dartmouth; Marqus Blakely, Vermont; Craig Brackins, Iowa State; Michael Bramos, Miami (Ohio); Jon Brockman, Washington; Brandon Brooks, Alabama State; John Bryant, Santa Clara. Chase Budinger, Arizona; DeMarre Carroll, Missouri; Jeremy Chappell, Robert Morris; Dionte Christmas, Temple; Earl Clark, Louisville; Darren Collison, UCLA; Dante Cunningham, Villanova; Devan Downey, South Carolina; Tyreke Evans, Memphis; Levance Fields, Pittsburgh.
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse; Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena; Jordan Hill, Arizona; Matt Howard, Butler; Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin; Matt Kingsley, Stephen F. Austin; Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; Eric Maynor, Virginia Commonwealth; Kellen McCoy, Weber State; Tywain McKee, Coppin State. Orlando Mendez-Valdez, Western Kentucky; Derrick Mercer, American; Luke Nevill, Utah; Ahmad Nivins, Saint Joseph's; Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford; A.J. Price, Connecticut; Alex Renfroe, Belmont; Tyrese Rice, Boston College; Kyle Singler, Duke; Jermaine
Taylor, Central Florida. Jeff Teague, Wake Forest; Marcus Thornton, LSU; Evan Turner, Ohio State; Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State; Gary Wilkinson, Utah State; Booker Woodfox, Creighton; Ben Woodside, North Dakota State.

No more "Surf"ing in Atlantic City

The Atlantic City Surf have called it quits.

The Surf are one of two clubs in the independent Can-Am League discontinuing operations. The Ottawa Voyageurs are also throwing in the towel.

Miles Wolff, the league's commissioner, said a deal to sell the Surf last week fell through.

"We are tremendously disappointed that the Can-Am League will not be in Ottawa and Atlantic City in 2009," Wolff said. "These are two cities that we believe can be strong members. However, without solid ownership and the financial commitment behind these teams, it is in the best interest of the league to go with six clubs."

The Surf, who were managed in their final season by Cecil Fielder, the former Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees slugger, averaged 2,765 fans per game last season at Bernie Robbins Stadium.

Major leaguers who toilded for the Surf include Giants outfielder Marvin Benard, Phillies shortstop Kim Batiste, Blue Jays pitcher Marty Janzen, Cubs third baseman Ryan Minor and outfielder Ozzie Timmons, and Angels pitcher Ben Weber.

Kiper talks NFL Draft

ESPN conducted a media conference call on Wednesday, March 25 with NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. Here are some select comments from the conference call:

On the similarities between Falcons quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Georgia’s Matthew Stafford …
“There is no similarity with Ryan because Ryan played his senior year. If Matthew Stafford would have played his senior year then there would be no concerns. I think he would have lit it up. A.J. Green is a developing star as a wide receiver. He was a true freshman last year and he’s ready to be one of the great receivers in college football. The offensive line which was so young last year with freshmen and unproven players is now a cohesive group. Granted (Knowshon) Moreno left, but there’s some quality backs in the program. Had he stayed another year, he would have been off the charts. I think that’s where you say, where could he be? That’s going to be his year. You have to coach him and treat him like he’s a senior in college. You’re not going to have a guy like Matt Ryan, even a Joe Flacco who stayed for his senior year. You’re not going to have a veteran coming in. You’re going to have a guy who is still a junior. … You have to treat him differently. If you draft him, the first year, if you want to get him later in the season, don’t expect a lot. If you think he needs to play through his mistakes, fine, but you have to coach him.

“With the talent he has, he’ll be a sponge. He’ll pick everything up. He’ll work hard at it. His arm strength is in the rare category, rare arm strength. We always talk about above average arms, great arms. A lot of guys have good arms, but elite arms are rare and this kid has it.

“So you ask why people are all over the place. They have to determine if he’s worthy of being the No.1 pick in the draft. How NFL ready is he? How much time do we have to spend with him? Do we want to commit all these dollars? They don’t treat quarterbacks like they did back in the 1980’s where you have three to four years to develop them. They want them to play right away. In Matthew Stafford’s case that’s not realistic. In Mark Sanchez’s case it’s not realistic.”

On the Patriots’ draft options with six top 100 picks …
“You’re talking about a draft that has some middle-round guys and late-round guys that will be very good players in this league. You should be able to get some depth in certain positions. Linebackers that they want to get younger, whether it’s Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, Larry English…a lot of 3-4 type guys. Defensive backfield, not any first round guaranteed stars at the cornerback spot …I like a D.J. Moore out of Vanderbilt as a third-round pick. … He’s a very underrated kid and there are several others that fall in that category. You’re going to get good players that fall for the reason that they don’t have good measurables. Some of the guys with good measurables are busts. The Patriots are going to do extremely well with those picks.”

On why teams do not need to draft a center early …
“Tough overachieving, hard-working centers make it far in this league. If you look in the NFL right now, a lot of these guys were not highly regarded coming out of college and now they’re starting. That’s why there’s an argument, definite argument, to not draft a center early because you don’t have to. Now there’s going to be three going in the second round – Eric Wood, Max Unger and Alex Mack are all going to go and they’re all outstanding players. But, you can create centers that are more than solid in the NFL.”

Post Combine and Pro Days: Players who have rocketed and plunged …
“Normally individual workouts make it for you. They allow you to make a statement and do the best you can. That’s why an Aaron Maybin recovers after not running great at the Combine and had a great year at Penn State. He was up, down a bit and now he’s back up. I didn’t change much for him…he’s been consistent all the way through because he’s a heck of a football player.

“I think when you look at Michael Crabtree, having the injury unfortunately pushed him down a little bit. If you look at some of the corners, Malcolm Jenkins not running under a 4.5 affected him to the point where – is he going to be a safety, is he going to be a corner? Not going in the top 10 as expected to go had he run better. There is a lot of mixed opinion on some players. Everett Brown, not real big, not real super fast … but had some multiple sack games and some people think he’s an early first round pick and I don’t. Some people are higher on Eugene Monroe. Some people think he’s the best left tackle in the draft. I don’t. I think he’s a good player but not a great player.

“Some guys that have risen certainly, where they are right now versus where they have been … I think people are now more enamored with Percy Harvin despite having the ankle late in the year. People are seeing how explosive and versatile he is. Another is Hakeem Nicks at North Carolina, a high grade. At the combine he’s 212 pounds. At the individual workout he was 226 pounds. I know he had a hamstring injury and you’ve got to rest that and could be why he may have gained weight, but that was a red flag for some teams. Robert Ayers from Tennessee moved way up in about the 20th pick to Detroit. Clay Matthews helped himself in this process, the linebacker from USC.”

On Stafford at No. 1 and if the Lions take him who do they take at No. 20 …
“At 20 you could go defensive end…I don’t think offensive tackle is going to fall that way, but they could take a Michael Oher, a left tackle out of Ole Miss. …They have options and they have a lot of needs. The picks really address these concerns. As far as Stafford going No.1, I’m not making the choice. All I say is for the Detroit Lions, if you don’t take Stafford, who do you take? And if you don’t take Stafford and you take someone else, who’s going to be your quarterback? You’ve got Culpepper and you’ve got Stanton. Are you going to forget about quarterback this year? There’s no guarantee that (Josh) Freeman is going to be there at 20. There’s no other quarterback to think about until the fifth round. So for me, it’s Stafford. And if you don’t pick Stafford and he goes to Seattle and starts lighting it up, you didn’t take him. You pass him and he’s going to go somewhere else.”

Risk vs. Reward: How do Division I-AA players stack up …
“I think some teams are fearful of I-AA players or non I-A players. There is a risk because of the level of competition for obvious reasons. They’re not coming in ever working against players equal to their ability, and everybody in the NFL is the best in the world playing this game. It is a transition and difficult for some players.”

Eagles sniffing around Bills' Peters

The Buffalo News is reporting that Bills left tackle Jason Peters is nowhere close to signing a new deal and the Eagles maybe be interested in acquiring the former Pro Bowl selection.

According to the newspaper, Peters wants to be the highest paid left tackle in the league and surpass Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross’ $11 million annual deal.

"We've had dialogue with Jason’s representatives and we will continue to have dialogue," Bills Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon told the News. "Obviously, Jason is a tremendous football player and we would like to have Jason as a cornerstone for many years to come.

"But it takes two to come together. We spoke to Jason at the conclusion of the season. He knows how much he means to us. Hopefully, we can make some headway here in the oncoming weeks."

Asked about reports that the Eagles, who have a pair of first-round draft picks, are targeting Peters, Brandon was coy.

"That’s another issue that is too early to discuss," Brandon said. "Our focus is on trying to come together on some kind of arrangement with Jason."

Peters hasn't reported to the Bills ' voluntary offseason conditioning program.

Monday, March 30, 2009

UFC coming to Philly

UFC 101 is expected to take place Aug. 8 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.

The UFC has been eying the Big House since the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission (PSAC) announced newly-approved regulations for the sport of mixed martial arts that took effect on Feb. 27 of this year.

UFC 101 is expected to feature a major 155-pound title fight between BJ Penn and Kenny Florian as well as a co-main event between former UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture and former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

Additionally, Thiago Silva and ex-205-pound kingpin Forrest Griffin are also expected to fight as are fan favorite Matt Hamill and former heavyweight Brandon Vera.

Eagles preseason schedule announced

The Philadelphia Eagles today announced their 2009 preseason schedule, highlighted by a nationally televised contest at Indianapolis on FOX on Thursday, August 20. The Eagles will open their preseason slate at home vs. the New England Patriots. On August 27, the Eagles will host the Jacksonville Jaguars, the first ever meeting between these two teams in the preseason. The Eagles and New York Jets, who have met 24 times in the preseason over the last 24 years (they played twice in 1992 and did not face each other in 2000), will close their preseason schedules at Giants Stadium on Thursday, September 3.

Date Opponent Time Network

August 13 or 14
New England - TBA - ETN/6ABC

Thursday, August 20
at Indianapolis - 8:00 PM - FOX

Thursday, August 27
Jacksonville - 7:00 PM - ETN/6ABC

Thursday, September 3
at NY Jets - 7:00 PM - ETN/6ABC

All Eagles games will be simulcast on WYSP (94.1 FM) and WIP (610 AM). For more information on tickets and other Eagles events in 2009, please log on to philadelphiaeagles.com.

Burress may serve jail time

The New York Times' John Eligon is reporting a plea deal is being seriously considered in the gun possession case against New York Giants WR Plaxico Burress, and it appears likely that any agreement would require Burress to serve at least some time behind bars.

The details had not been finalized, and it remained unclear whether an arrangement would be reached by Tuesday, March 31, when Burress is scheduled to appear in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Moats accepts apology

Former Eagles running back Ryan Moats reportedly accepted the apology of the world's worst policeman.

Moats, now with the Houston texans, and his wife say they are ready to move past an incident in which a Dallas police officer held the player outside a hospital as his mother-in-law died inside.

"Well, first of all I accept his apology, and I hope it's sincere - a sincere apology," Moats said on ABC's "Good Morning America. "I've kind of left it up to my wife because I love Jo, my mother-in-law. ... She was just like my mom. And so I wanted to leave that up to (Tamishia) if she wanted to hear that from him."

Officer Robert Powell, 25, issued a statement Saturday, March 28, through his lawyers expressing regret for the incident.

"Actually, it would be comforting if we heard an apology directly from him," Tamishia Moats said. "But up to this point we have not received a personal call from him, directly. Maybe he has tried to reach out and we just perhaps missed his call. We definitely would accept his apology because, you know, he's a human being so we would, definitely."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flyers recover from early deficit, top Islanders in shootout

by Bob Herpen
The Phanatic Magazine

Mike Richards notched the winner in the second round of the shootout, as the Philadelphia Flyers rallied from a two- goal third-period deficit to edge the New York Islanders, 4-3, at Nassau Coliseum.

Martin Biron foiled Frans Nielsen to open the second round before Richards tucked a shot off the right post and just beyond the right pad of Yann Danis.
Biron then easily halted a weak shot from Mark Streit to end the game in the Flyers' favor.

Joffrey Lupul tallied twice and Scott Hartnell once for the Flyers, who have won three of their last four games and remained in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 92 points.

Philly has won all five meetings with the Isles this season, and has reeled off 12 wins in their last 13 matchups dating back to the start of last season.

Following Pittsburgh's win over the Rangers earlier Saturday and Carolina's victory against New Jersey later Saturday, Philly moved one point ahead of the Hurricanes and two ahead of the Penguins.

Biron extended his personal winning streak over the Islanders to 11 games, making 30 saves.

Radek Martinek, Jeff Tambellini and Streit scored for the Islanders, who have dropped four of five and could not sustain the momentum from Friday's surprise 2-0 win in Detroit.

Danis took the loss despite a 33-save performance.

The Islanders took a 1-0 lead with 5:48 to play in the first period. Nate Thompson won a left-circle draw to Tim Jackman, who dished back to Martinek for a shot which changed direction on its way to the back of the net.

New York looked poised to go up 2-0 with a power-play score from Nielsen at the first-period buzzer, but a review determined the puck did not cross the goal line before time expired.

Tambellini did provide a two-goal lead for the Isles, batting a puck out of mid-air while facing away from the net 3:03 into the second period.

The Flyers began the third period by wiping out their two-goal deficit in a little less than four minutes.

Lupul darted down the right wing from end-to-end and slipped a shot behind Danis at the 4:24 mark.

Hartnell tied the game at 6:38, alertly backhanding the rebound of Jeff Carter's initial shot before Lupul lifted a backhander home on a breakaway at 7:58. That tally was the winger's 100th career goal, and his 23rd of the season.

However, Streit followed Kyle Okposo's rebound and tucked it between Biron's pads for a 3-3 deadlock just 51 seconds later.

Despite six shots and spirited play, neither team could finish a chance in overtime.

Temple's Knighton impresses at pro day

NFL.com's Gil Brandt reports that Temple defensive tackle Terrance Knighton had an impressive workout during his pro day.

The 6-foot-3, 317-pound lineman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.93 seconds and registered a 29-inch vertical leap, an improvement from his numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine where he ran the 40 in 5.21 seconds.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes, Cleveland Browns defensive line coach Bryan Cox as well as coaches from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Denver Broncos were on hand.

Knighton also had a 8-9 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times, a disappointing figure.

Knighton tallied 54 tackles last season and 7 1/2 tackles for loss.

Phils get lefty reliever; Coste is backup catcher

Left-hander Jack Taschner has been acquired by the Phillies from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for catcher Ronny Paulino.

Taschner, 30, went 3-2 with a 4.88 ERA in 67 games for the Giants last season. In 16 appearances against the NL East, he went 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA. This spring, Taschner was 0-0 with a 6.23 ERA in eight Cactus League appearances with the Giants.

Paulino, 27, was acquired by the Phillies on December 10, 2008, in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Jason Jaramillo. He was hitting .194 with one home run in 13 Grapefruit League games for the Phillies.

Originally selected by the Giants in the second round of the 1999 draft, Taschner is 8-4 with a 5.01 ERA in 178 career Major League games.

Meanwhile, Paulino's exit means Chris Coste will be the backup catcher.

Friday, March 27, 2009

LeBron is ridiculous

LeBron James is being profiled on “60 Minutes” this week, and in the middle of the interview he casually drains a shot from well past half court.

Missanelli vs. Eskin

Philly media maven Laura Nachman recently weighed in on the battle between WIP's Howard Eskin and ESPN950's Mike Missanelli.
Nachman is reporting that Missinelli is topping Eskin in the younger male demographics (18-34) and sometimes beats him in the overall ratings. A WPEN station official have confirmed that to The Phanatic Magazine in the past.

However, Eskin still continues to lead in the overall ratings the majority of the time.
The rest of the day remains no contest as the mixture of ESPN’s syndicated and local shows is not really connecting with the town.
Most remember Eskin and Missanelli once worked together in the afternoons on WIP and did not get along.

'Nova moves on with rout of Duke

Villanova demolished Duke, 77-54, in Boston last might to advance to the Elite Eight against Pitt on Saturday.

That will be a rematch of the final college game ever played at the soon-to-close Wachovia Spectrum. Then ranked #21 Villanova defeated #3 ranked Pittsburgh 67-57 before a sold out Spectrum crowd on January 28, 2009.

Villanova started their road to the Final Four at the Wachovia Center with victories over American University and UCLA in the first and second rounds.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: WWE Encyclopedia, The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment

By John McMullen
(The Phanatic Magazine) - As a long time professional wrestling fan, who actually toiled in the industry for a short time (as a writer), the title of this book left me skeptical.

In order to publish the definitive guide of World Wrestling Entertainment, a company that has roots dating back to the 1950s, you would first have to overcome the massive ego of the company's chairman, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
In the wrestling industry, McMahon is notorious for ignoring history and loathe to give credit to others.

His forward called this project the “first ever official documented history of the WWE.”

To prove his thesis, I immediately went looking for three individuals McMahon probably wouldn't have wanted in the book -- Bruno Sammartino, Randy Savage and Chris Benoit.

Sammartino, the two-time WWWF champion during the '60s and '70s and one of the five biggest stars in company history, doesn't like McMahon and never passes up an opportunity to criticize him. But, sure enough, Sammartino was not only listed but given the reverence he deserved.

Same for Savage, who McMahon detests, and the company's biggest pariah, Benoit, a brilliant wrestler that surrendered his legacy by murdering his family and killing himself in June of 2007.

This book delivers but understand it's the story of World Wrestling Entertainment and authors Kevin Sullivan and Brian Shields stuck to the storyline. There are no real names, no behind the scenes info or post-WWE career information. E-mail me for that stuff.

Nonetheless, this book is an invaluable source for any WWE fan looking to become more well-versed on the company's storied history.

A title history for every single WWE championship is featured in the book, from the little known World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship, a vehicle for legendary Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki, to the more obvious WWWF/WWF/WWE Championship.

The company's impressive television, pay-per-view and merchandising history are also captured and a complete history of the wrestling's biggest event, Wrestlemania, caps off the book.

The book is a hardcover gem with 350 large full color pages measuring 12"x9" and has a suggested retail price of $45 but is available for as low as $30 on Amazon.com

As with any encyclopedia, the book runs from A to Z and profiles nearly 1,000 stars and includes over 1,500 images from the WWE and Pro Wrestling Illustrated archives.

The Phanatic Magazine gives the book its highest recommendation.

In celebration of the release of DK Publishing's WWE Encyclopedia, The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment, The Phanatic Magazine gives you its top 20 WWWF/WWF/WWE superstars of all-time.

1. - "Stone Cold" Steve Austin - The top draw in the history of pro wrestling. Retired as a regular in-ring performer in 2003 due to neck, ankle and knee injuries. Reportedly made $13 million dollars in his best year, the most ever for any pro wrestler.
2. - Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) - Helped McMahon go national.
3. - Bruno Sammartino - Champ for eight years during the '60s and '70s. Sold out Madison Square Garden 45 different times.
4. - Andre the Giant (Andre Roussimoff) - Biggest worldwide star of the '70s and '80s.
5. - The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) - A true crossover Hollywood star.
6. - Antonino Rocca (Antonino Biasetton) - Biggest company drawing card before Sammartino when it was known as Capitol Wrestling Corporation.
7. - Randy "Macho Man" Savage (Randy Poffo) - Hogan - Savage was magic.
8. - The Undertaker (Mark Calaway) - 16-0 Wrestlemania mark is like wrestling's home run record.
9. - "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (Roderick Toombs) - Hogan's top foil during national expansion.
10. - Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) - The best pure worker I have ever seen.
11. - Bret "Hitman" Hart - Bret will kill me when he sees he is below Shawn.
12. - John Cena - Hard worker who is the WWE's biggest current star by a wide margin-- sorry Triple H. Cena is trying to cross over to the mainstream like Johnson and has been hired as a pitchman by both Subway and Gillette. His first movie, The Marine, grossed $18.7 million in the theaters and an additional $30 million in DVD rentals. His second film, 12 Rounds, opens Friday. Meanwhile, his rap album, You Can't See Me, reached No. 15 on the Billboard charts.
13. - Bob Backlund - Former NCAA Division II wrestling champ tied Sammartino's record for most MSG sellouts.
14. - "Superstar" Billy Graham (Wayne Coleman) - Awesome drawing card that was way ahead of his time. Inspired a whole generation of wrestlers like Hogan, Jesse Ventura and our next selection...
15. - Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig) - Worst wrestler on this list by far but the fans loved him. Now a right-wing lunatic.
16. - Triple H (Paul Levesque) - The chairman's son-in-law is a legitimate superstar and will be headlining his seventh Wrestlemania on April 5, second only to Hogan.
17. - Mankind/Dude Love/Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) - Brilliant promo guy that overcame a bad body to headline.
18. - Sgt. Slaughter (Bob Remus) - Probably the most controversial pick on the list but was McMahon's first merchandising superstar.
19. - Ric Flair (Richard Fliehr) - Would be much higher but did most of his best work in the rival National Wrestling Alliance.
20. - Buddy Rogers (Herman Rohde) - First WWWE champion and the original Nature Boy.

UPDATE: In the first week of its release, the WWE Encyclopedia entered The New York Times Bestseller list at Number 10 for April 5th, 2009.

WWE Encyclopedia is the only official encyclopedia to chronicle WWE. In addition to its debut on The New York Times’ Advice, How To and Miscellaneous bestseller list, it was also Number One on the Sports & Recreation Charts, according to Nielsen Bookscan week ending 3/22/09.

DK Publishing CEO Gary June commented, “When WWE came to us looking to publish a reference that stood up to the energy, visual impact, and drama of WWE’s storied history, we knew we would have to produce a book that surpassed the available information online. DK’s distinctive visual treatment was a perfect match, and the fan response is proving that.”

Eagles are PR Wizards

The hits keep on coming for the Eagles.

Gossip guy Dan Gross is reporting that Bonnie Grant, a former Eagles spokesperson, is suing the Birds, alleging discrimination regarding her gender and health. Grant is a breast cancer survivor.

According to Grant's complaint, the Eagles began to "issue petty and unsupported discipline" against Grant and directed her not to discuss her cancer history.

Grant claims she was terminated without warning and without cause on Oct. 12, 2007 and, in an effort "to conceal her unlawful termination," the Eagles created an e-mail that "misappropriated" Grant's identity and was sent to anyone who wrote to her Eagles e-mail.

Gross previously reported in October 2007 that Grant was fired after taking the fall for the Eagles' front-office outrage over a Daily News front-page story by Chris Brennan about measures to cut down on tailgating during home games.

Gross also said that Grant was upset that the Eagles had set up an e-mail auto-reply that purported to be written by her and referenced that she had left the team to "pursue other interests."

The Eagles deny any wrongdoing.

"In February 2008, Bonnie Grant made claim to the EEOC, the governmental agency responsible for these issues. There was no investigation with regard to her claim. The Philadelphia Eagles were not even asked to respond to the charge," [Pamela Browner Crawley, the Eagles' senior vice president of public affairs] told Gross.

Festivus was Wednesday for L.J. Smith...

The former underachieving Eagles tight end L.J. Smith, who signed last week with the Baltimore Ravens, aired some grievances Wednesday on Sportings News Radio
s The Monty Show..

“I think I was just treated more like a number last year,” Smith said. “There were a lot of things that I felt like should have been handled differently and you know there were a couple of times where coach should have came up to me and explained how he was looking at things and how he was handling situations and what direction he wanted to go but it didn’t happen like that.

“As a player you never want to hear things through the media. . . You just want to be treated like a man before an athlete. I think a lot of times in the NFL coaches forget that. They’re so involved with the numbers and schemes and they forget how to approach a player and I just felt like a couple of times throughout the season last year there were a couple of coaches who forgot that.”

Smith also said he hasn’t talked to Andy Reid about his issues.

“I’m just going to let it go. . . I don’t want to come across bitter or anything like that because as long as I’m in the NFL, that’s a blessing in itself. I’m definitely grateful for my experience there, good or bad, however it’s one of those things where the coach knows. He knows how he should have handled the situation and I don’t have to tell him.”

More T.O. Nonsense

Gossip Web site Dirty.com is reporting that former Bird receiver Terrell Owens should have gotten a DUI last Saturday.

The Web site says Owens left the MYNT Nightclub in Miami early Sunday morning noticeably impaired and drove four blocks before police pulled him over. The Miami Beach Police Department then reportedly accepted his autograph and let him go.

The Dirty isn't exactly the New York Times but the Buffalo Bills are probably already starting to question their recent decision to sign everyone's favorite locker room killer.

Ex-Eagle has brush with bad cop

A Dallas police officer pulled over former Eagles running back Ryan Moats while he was rushing to see his dying mother-in-law.

The officer drew his gun, threatened Moats with jail and held him in the hospital parking lot as the woman died.

Check out the horrible story by banging the link...

CSN to host Cat Call tonight

Comcast SportsNet will air a halftime show during tomorrow night’s Villanova-Duke game with Marshall Harris, CSN basketball analyst John Celestand and Dionte Christmas of Temple.

At the conclusion of the game, CSN will then air a postgame show called “Cat Call.”

Neil Hartman will be filing reports from Boston.

Tip-off is on CBS at 9:57 p.m. Thursday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Logo says no to the Clippers

By John McMullen

(The Phanatic Magazine) - It's easy to pick out the marquee franchises in the world of sport. The New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, Dallas Cowboys and Montreal Canadiens would probably top most lists.

But, how about the other end of the spectrum -- the seemingly always moribund clubs with the proverbial dark cloud always looming.

In the NBA, it's rather easy to pick out the league's doormat -- Donald Sterling's hapless Los Angles Clippers.

Whether its karma or just good ol' bad luck, the Clips' history is scarier than anything Stephen King ever came up with.

This horror movie started in the late 1970s when the Clippers were still a twinkle in Irv Levin's eye.

Levin, a California businessman, owned the Boston Celtics, while John Brown was at the helm of the Buffalo Braves. The Braves' poor play during their final two years in Western New York (30-52 in 1976-77 and 27-55 in 1977-78), along with poor season ticket sales had Brown thinking about greener pastures,

The NBA's general counsel at the time, David Stern, set up a meeting at the time between Brown and Levin and a trade of franchises was brokered. Not exactly a great deal for Levin, but he wanted to own an NBA team in his native state and the C's were obviously going nowhere.

NBA owners voted 21-1 to let the Braves relocate and Levin brought the club to sunny San Diego after the 1977-78 season...The Clippers were born.

Thirty years later, the team has mustered four postseason appearances and exactly one playoff series win.

Things actually started pretty well for the Clips in Cali. In the team's first season in San Diego, it posted a winning record, 43-39, under head coach Gene Shue. While that mark wasn't good enough for postseason play, it turned out to be the Clippers' last winning season for 13 years as the bad luck piled up.

In 1979-80 the Clippers brought in San Diego native Bill Walton, a brilliant player who was just two years removed from an NBA championship with the Portland Trail Blazers. But foot injuries had crippled Walton by that point, and San Diego finished with a record of 37-45.

The 1981-82 season brought more changes to the Clipper franchise as Levin sold the team to Los Angeles-area real estate developer and attorney Donald Sterling for $12.5 million.

Jerry West is the silhouetted player depicted in the NBA logo.
The Clippers' poor play in their final years in San Diego resulted in the team averaging under 5,000 fans per game. Sterling subsequently lobbied the NBA to relocate the team to his native Los Angeles. In 1984, the NBA agreed, and the Clippers moved to Hollywood.

The Clips were largely pathetic for the next seven seasons, including a 12-70 record in the 1986-87 season, at the time the second-worst single-season record in NBA history.

There have been a few spikes here and there since. Larry Brown had the team heading in the right direction in the early '90s but the nomadic one got antsy and packed his bags long before anything real was accomplished. Meanwhile, the team's current coach and general manager, Mike Dunleavy, joined the Clippers in 2003 and led the team to that lone playoff success in 2006.

Since then, thanks to a series of injuries, the black cloud has reemerged over the Clippers and the team is a miserable 17-54 this season.

For many years Sterling was the villain in this novel. Widely criticized for his tight hold over the purse strings and unwillingness to invest in his own team, Sterling seemed to have an epiphany when Dunleavy arrived.

In 2003, the longtime owner opened up his checkbook to sign Elton Brand to the biggest contract in franchise history; a six-year, $82 million deal. He also matched a $45 million dollar offer sheet Corey Maggette received from the Utah Jazz and brought in a few higher-priced veterans free agents, like Cuttino Mobley in 2005 and Tim Thomas in 2006 and Baron Davis this past offseason Sterling also spent $50 million to build a state-of-the-art practice facility in Los Angeles' Playa Del Rey neighborhood.

None of it has worked. Brand and Maggette are long gone and the Clips are bottom-feeders again.

Those who know Sterling say he is intent on winning a championship in the city of Los Angeles, despite long being the red-headed stepchild to the far more popular and successful Lakers.

To that end, Sterling tried to pull off his boldest move to date over the past couple of weeks, offering his general manager job to Lakers legend Jerry West.

Sources close to West, who is the silhouetted player depicted in the NBA logo, told Los Angeles' KNBC that the Hall of Famer had indeed been approached by the Clippers about becoming the team's next general manager.

Not surprisingly, "The Logo" said no.

Just another loss for the Clippers.

Were you expecting anything else?

Coming Soon; The NFFL

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - With all the talk of recession and toxic assets dominating the national newscasts, I often get inundated on my radio show with the absurd thesis that pro sports, especially the NFL, is recession proof.

While I acknowledge America's obsession with the NFL, my response is usually pretty simple -- tell that to the 10 percent of the NFL office that Roger Goodell handed pink slips to during the holiday season.

In this bailout fueled economy, nothing is recession proof and that's why everyone, even the mighty NFL, has to fight for the public's disposable income.

The league, buoyed by its immense popularity, hasn't caught on to that yet.

Roger and his lemmings are a lot like the Obama Administration. They feel you like them so much that they can shove anything down your throat and you will accept it.

For years, the NFL has become a game filled with more and more minutia thanks to ridiculous rule changes that only complicate the game for the casual fan.

The latest series of "rule changes" were implemented this week in the name of "player safety."

The most publicized of these rules, of course, revolves around the quarterback position and is a knee-jerk reaction to New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady's ACL injury in Week 1 of last season.

While on the ground, Kansas City Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard scurried away from a Sammy Morris block and dove at Brady’s leg. The resulting hit blew out the All-Pro's left knee.

Had Morris hit Tyler Thigpen the league would have yawned but it was Mr. Gisele Bundchen so something had to be done and a new rule was cobbled together.

The new edict states that if a defensive player is on the ground and he lunges or rolls at a quarterback’s legs in a manner that involves a forcible hit with the helmet or shoulder, a penalty will be called.

However, defensive players are still permitted to hit a quarterback low if the defender is coming off a block, just as former Pittsburgh Steeler Kimo von Oelhoffen did a few years ago in the playoffs when he destroyed Carson Palmer’s knee.

Wait, I'm not done...A defensive player on the ground can also use his arms or hands to "grab" a quarterback and pull him down.

Nothing like making the game simpler and taking a possible judgment call out of the hands of Ed Hochuli, huh?

If he wasn't so well-paid, I would say Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating, has the worst gig in the world. You see, Pereira has to defend this crap in public with a straight face.

So, Mikey P. took to the airways to defend the drivel on Wednesday, appearing on Dan Patrick's syndicated show. Pereira explained that the new rule was actually just a "clarification" of the existing rule and added that the new definition was already illegal but never applied.


The funny thing is that all the rule changes over the years designed to help offense and protect the quarterbacks have only made signal-callers more vulnerable.

Unable to play coverage for more than a few seconds without being flagged, the league's defensive coordinators have figured out that the only way to win on a consistent basis in today's NFL is to get to the quarterback. That means less strategy, more blitzing and you guessed it -- more QB injuries.

The obtuse NFL Competition Committee then responds with more rules, making the game less and less enjoyable.

God forbid if Peyton Manning goes down next season, the NFL will cease to exist and be replaced by the NFFL -- The National Flag Football League.

Hochuli could probably handle that.

Andy Reid at the NFL Owners Meeting

(on his team) This is one thing I know. I can sit there – and I’d have to move some people here and there – but I can sit there and put together what I think is a championship-calibre football team. Now, do we need depth at certain spots? Absolutely. But I think we’re one of the few teams where, if you said line up and play today, we could do that and be very, very competitive.


(is your left tackle on your roster right now?) I think I have a couple of guys who could play left tackle and be very good at it. Shawn (Andrews) and Todd (Herremans).

(which one would be your left tackle?) I don’t know that yet. I’m just kind of juggling that around and seeing how everything lays out between the rest of free agency and the draft. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. But if I had to line up, I could put either one of them there (at LT). I could put either one at guard. Stacy Andrews can play tackle or guard. And Jon Runyan’s on the mend. So I don’t what’s going to happen with that situation.

(still possible Runyan will be re-signed?) We’ll just see how it goes. I’m not saying yay or nay.

(moving Andrews and/or Herremans outside from guard) Shawn Andrews and Todd Herremans came here as tackles. Against their will, I moved them into guard. They want to be tackles. They bug me all the time about playing tackle. They would have no problem moving out to tackle if that’s what happens.

(Herremans’ play in ’08) I thought Todd should’ve been in the Pro Bowl last year. I think that’s the kind of football he played.

(state of your o-line right now) I know I’ve got enough guys (at o-line) to line up there and have a very successful offensive line. That’s comforting.

(is getting a left tackle in the draft important?) I think I’ve got those guys here. Am I always looking for good offensive linemen? Yeah. But do I think I can go and play with what I’ve got and be very successful? Yeah. You’ve got to remember something. Even though he was a right tackle (at Arkansas), Shawn Andrews probably was the finest offensive tackle I’d ever seen come out of college football. I would have no problem putting Shawn or Todd (at left tackle). But because they don’t have that (left tackle) label, because I put them at guard, that doesn’t mean that’s all they can do

(on the play of center Jamaal Jackson) I thought Jamaal did a pretty good job in the pass game. I think he can keep working on some stuff in the run game.

(do you want to find competition for him at center?) Nick Cole is pretty good competition. He came in (at right guard) and showed what he can do. That will make us take a good look at Nick (as a starting center candidate), I’m sure.


(how important is it to find a back in the draft to complement Westbrook?) We’re keeping our eyes open for that. I like to have 2 or 3 running backs. So I will keep my eyes open for that spot.

(can Westbrook still be a carry-the-load back?) I think you need to supplement somebody else in there. But he can be your primary ballcarrier.


(on Donovan McNabb) We sure like Donovan, obviously. We understand that from a player’s standpoint, he’s the face of the Philadelphia Eagles. We want to keep him at that position.

(on how much he’s talked with McNabb since the end of the season) We talk all the time.

(any concern that he might not show up at minicamps if he doesn’t get a contract extension) That (not showing up) isn’t going to happen.

(How concerned would he be if McNabb didn’t show up for minicamp?) Obviously, the quarterback position is very important. I’m always looking at the positive. The positive is, that (when a veteran doesn’t show) the young guys get to work with the ones. The negative is that you sure want your starting quarterback there.

(if he didn’t show up at minicamp, eagles fans would act like a nuclear bomb hit the city) I don’t really care about that (fan reaction). Supposedly, we’ve already had a few nuclear bombs hit there. I just kind of move on and whoever that next guy is hops in. That’s not saying I don’t love having the best players there.

(are you confident he’ll be at minicamp) Yes.

(on dawkins) He’s a great person. Philadelphia saw Brian come in and grow up as a man. They were able to see his kids grow up. Brian left a legacy there that should put him in Canton.

(the reaction by fans to his departure) I understood that completely.

(your decision to bench McNabb last November) Things get blown up in Philadelphia. I understand that. So I put that equation out of my mind and can’t worry about that part of it (fan and media reaction). I’ve got to do what’s best for the football team. And honestly, in that situation, what I thought was best for Donovan. You never know how things are going to go. I could sit here and tell you, `Ah, I knew everything would work out like it did.’ But you never know what’s gonna happen in this game when you do things like that. But I felt like it had to happen. Donovan is the type of person that carries the world on his back. As a result of that, at times, people around him expect him to carry the world on his back. And they’re not doing their jobs to their fullest. It’s too much. Too much for one person to do. That’s the point where this got to. It wasn’t from Donovan not trying or doing anything wrong. No human can do what he was trying to do. We were leading the league in drops. We weren’t playing great defense during that stretch. The offensive line was struggling. Everybody was having their thing. And to be honest with you, I wasn’t coaching very good. Everybody needed to pick their game up. And that’s kind of what happened after that.
I knew Donovan could handle the (benching) situation. That’s why he’s here. That’s why I drafted him way back when. I knew he could handle these kinds of situations. And two, I know guys like him on the team and they won’t ever let him sit on that bench very long. They will pick their game up and do what they’re supposed to do and we’ll become a football team again.

(Donovan’s refusal to acknowledge he benefited from the benching) I completely understand. This wasn’t Donovan coming over to me and saying he wanted to sit on the bench. That wasn’t what it was. No player wants that. Especially a player that competitive in a game that close. That’s not what he wants. But if that’s what we needed as a football team, I don’t mind being the bad guy. That’s my responsibility to get the football team right.

(what would have happened if Kevin Kolb had lit it up in second half?) Donovan McNabb was going to be my quarterback the next week. Because I’ve been around the guy too long. Donovan was going to be the quarterback.

(on Kolb’s frustration at looking at spending a third straight season on the bench as McNabb’s backup) He’s been a starter his whole life. He’s just learning how the whole backup thing works. But that was a great learning experience coming into that (Baltimore) game. That (performance) wasn’t Kevin Kolb. If you go back and look at the preseason game when he had a chance to play against New England’s 1s after they’d just been chewed out by Bill Belichick and how well he played there, and look at the other opportunities he’s had to come in. Kevin’s going to be a good football player. It’s just that Donovan’s a good football player too, right now.


(could you and the team have handled the Dawkins’ situation better?) There are certain ways you can do it. You can just release a player and do kind of like they did with Marvin Harrison in Indianapolis. Or you can actually try to get something done. Then if you lose him, then, you know what, you end up not being the good guy. But at the same time, in your heart, you know you tried to do something. Then you wish him the best of luck.
Brian, to me, will always be a Philadelphia Eagle. Brian should be able to walk into our office at any time, even if we’re playing them, and shake everybody’s hand and keep his high and know that he’s left a special legacy in Philadelphia.

(difficulty in letting a player like Dawkins leave) This is the hardest part of the job from my standpoint. It’s not an easy thing to do, not an easy thing to talk about. But that’s part of this business. It’s been part of this business forever. Since professional sports has been in business.
There’s a good part about being a head coach for 10 years and there’s a bad part. The bad part is you’re starting to get on the edge of your players’ careers. Then you have to make some tough, tough decisions. And that’s not fun. There’s nothing fun about it.

(your contact with Dawkins prior to him signing with Denver) I had talked to him a few times during the process.

(why couldn’t you have said all you’ve said about Dawkins today when he signed with the Broncos?) It might’ve reduced the amount of criticism about the Eagles being a cold-hearted organization) A week later, Joe (Banner) talked about it. I just let it go there. That was enough. Listen, Brian deserves his due. There was no easy way to do this if you were going to continue to try to negotiate and bring him back. I thought Denver did a heck of a job. They gave him a tremendous contract. And more power to them. But there wasn’t going to be an easy way of doing it. And then, I think it’s very hard for me to bring in, who at that time was the top offensive line free agent (Stacy Andrews) and try to make it his day and then talk about Brian Dawkins. I will never do it. That’s just not what I do.

(you could’ve taken questions on Dawkins after the Andrews’ press conference) I guess I could’ve done a lot of things. But that was (Andrews’) day and you let it go at that.

On safety Sean Jones' one-year contract: "If it works out and he plays well, it's a win-win for him. He either ends up coming back with us or he's able to get a nice contract somewhere else."

On Quintin Demps getting the first crack at being the starting free safety: "Yeah, but there will be competition. Both Quintins will have a shot. Quintin Mikell is established.

On how he will line up the safeties: "Quintin Mikell can play either one. Quintin Demps played free and we just have to see how the whole thing works out. We brought Demps in here to do what he did. We were able to ease him into the lineup as the season went on and give him some good playing experience. It's a matter of him coming in and being able to retain what he learned last season and then going out physically and play."

On how Sean Jones gets on the field as safety: "There are things we can do, so there is going to be some flexibility. And Sean is a big guy. Putting him down close to the line of scrimmage does not hurt you at all. At the same time, as long as he keeps his weight right he can run very well, too. I'll open up (the safety competition) and let them go. But I can tell you that Quintin Mikell is right on the edge of going to the Pro Bowl."

On his feelings when he heard about defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's cancer late in the season: "I had known before we actually played the last couple games. I had an idea what was up. That's tough. We've been together so long and you don't want to see somebody in as much pain as he was in. When he gets to the point where he can't walk, that's tough. That's not a good thing. It was just a matter then of making sure he received the best help he could get and I think that's happened.

"His emotional makeup is very similar to his emotional makeup on the field. He doesn't want to talk about it, he just wants to get it done with. He's attacking it and trying to get it right. As a matter of fact, right now he's in Spain. I really think his number one goal is to be able to golf. He was trying to get it taking care of by this trip. I don't know if he got that far, but he wanted to be able to golf in Spain. I don't know if (the chemotherapy) is done yet. I think he had a couple more stages left of that, but he's been through enough. Most men would be on their back, but he's just stubborn. He's been in the office every day.

"He's way better than what he was. He can get around now. To say he's getting better, I would say drastically better since the (NFC) championship game. He's made progress."

On whether Johnson can handle the full responsibility of being the team's defensive coordinator: "I think so, yeah. And then he knows he has (secondary coach) Sean McDermott who he's trained. Sean can step in and take over there if needed, but I don't know if it will get to that point. Jim knows that and he's prepared Sean for that. Jim is always going to be my coordinator as long as he can do it. You never know how bad it is, but I think it's important that he knows (he's the coordinator) and all the guys around him know that. Jim banks on Sean a lot anyway, so maybe he does a little bit more. He'll do what Jim can't do, but right now I think Jim can do everything."

On Brent Celek and the tight end situation: "I expect (Celek) to get better in the blocking area, but he's not far off there and he's very willing. We'll get that part taken care of. He can be a number one tight end in this league and for us. I have no problem with that. However, you need depth at that spot. We do have (Matt) Schobel there and Schobel is a good receiver. We probably need to get another guy in there. I like to have three tight ends.

On whether the third tight end needs to be an outstanding blocker: "They better be able to do both. I always feel like you can teach the blocking part of it. He's got to be willing to learn the blocking part, but getting guys that can catch the ball, that's hard to teach. You try to get a guy with decent hands and with the potential to be a blocker."

On whether Oklahoma's Brandon Pettigrew, the top-rated tight end in the draft: "I think he can do both. I think he's savvy. He's not real fast, but he's just a huge human being."

On the team's coaching changes (Ted Daisher special teams coordinator, Rory Segrest from special teams to defensive line, James Urban to quarterbacks coach and Doug Pederson to offensive quality control): "I like them so far, but there are a couple of them I haven't been in the heat of things with during a game. Ted Daisher I've been close with and Rory at the defensive line spot."

On the defensive line: "I think what you'll get is probably a healthier dose (at defensive end) of Victor (Abiamiri). He's another year older and healthy. He was coming on early, then was injured and then came on toward the end. It will be good to get him in there and get a full season out of him. I'll always keep my eyes open (for other defensive linemen). I just think everybody is better when that spot is a strength. I can't sit here and say, 'No, I'm not going to take sombody there (in the draft).' "

On whether Abiamiri is now the starter ahead of Juqua Parker: "They're both going to play. I look at it as we have eight (defensive linemen). I'm slowly figuing out how the hockey players do it in case we have 18 games.

On whether he could look to upgrade the wide receiver position: "I'll always look at something if there is a great player out there and it doesn't matter what position. I'm always looking to better our football team. Do I think we have good enough guys there? Yeah, I do. I think you get an even better Jason Avant this year. He kind of reached his abilities last year and now we can get a whole season out of him. You have a healthy Kevin Curtis. You have to remember, Kevin was coming off a sports hernia and that was an unbelievable thing he did by playing through that. You've got Reggie Brown who is a starter and you've got a young DeSean (Jackson) coming back and this is a very important year for him ... because the defensive coordinators have had some time now to study him. They'll find out ways to shut him down, so he has to make sure he picks up his game another notch."

On whether Jackson will remain the team's punt returner: "He's still going to punt return as we sit here today."

On Reggie Brown's disappearance from the offense last season: "One of the unfortunate things in this business is -- it's a good thing, but also an unfortunate one -- when you get hurt and a young guy is playing well, then it's hard to get back in there. (Brown) came back and I moved him to X receiver spot, then he got banged up again ... and he just was going back and forth. Then Kevin came back and DeSean was playing well and I kind of just let it go at that. I tried to work Reggie in there. He's a competitive kid and he wants to be out there playing. Those aren't easy decisions from my side and I know it wasn't easy for him to accept that. He's got a lot of good football ahead of him. It's not that Reggie can't play. He's got to come in and play like the rest of them do. There's competition there. If somebody snoozes, then they're not going to be the one playing, whoever it is."

On the Wildcat formation: "We're not going to feature the Wildcat. I'll be curious to see what people do with it. I thought Miami had a pretty extensive package and I'm curious to see if they continue to expand that. What normally happens is if the colleges are doing one thing and that's where the quarterbacks are coming from, it seems to me a pretty high percentage of the college teams are going to the spread offense. That's what you're bringing into the NFL and somewhere you have to explore that. We're going to let (Jon) Gruden explore that during his sabbatical ... and see how it fits into the NFL game."

On how the personnel decisions are made within the Eagles' organization: "Most GMs come to the head coach and talk to him about the players ... and I'm sure most GMs would say that if the head coach really didn't like the guy, they'd probably go in a different direction. I'm saying most. I'm not saying all of them. From my standpoint, I want to make sure I have a good GM, because I'm still involved in the football part of it. I want to have a good college director and a good pro director. I bank on those guys. Then you have to be able to tie the money side of it in and balance that.

"I have people who bring me that information and then we make our decisions more in a joint fashion than we do. It's not, 'I want this guy.' I want their opinions. If you don't share your opinions, that's when you're not here. I'm not sitting up there going, 'I'm the almighty that I know every player backward and forward and my opinion is the right opinion.' That's not how we go about that. I respect the guys that I hired and you have to because they're taking these huge numbers of players and whittling it down for you. There's no way that I can watch every guy who comes out in the draft. There's a process that you bring it down to a workable number and then we sit down and we go through it together and look at these guys. We have it set up now in the college game, where I have it right here on my computer at the hotel that I can click on and watch all the college guys. I'm mobile. And then I can talk to Tom about certain guys and I can crank out more guys than I used to be able to in certain situations."

On whether Reid makes the final call on all situations, including the decision to let safety Brian Dawkins leave via free agency: "Listen, we spend a lot of time together talking. I have a lot of respect for Joe Banner. In this day and age, you have to be smart. If you're going to sustain your program, you have to be smart. Put the whole Dawkins thing aside. You have to work together. It's not a situation where the front office hates the GM and the GM hates the money people and the head coach hates all of them. You can't do that. That's not how it is. Everybody has to work together to get this thing right. It's important that everybody is willing to do that. Joe and I meet every day. We talk every day about things. When we do something, we do it together. It's not Joe, it's not me. We do this thing together.

"Because he's the money guy -- and this has happened from Babe Ruth's time on -- he's always thrown under the bus. It's the craziest thing. He's never going to be the good guy. He's the good guy when he signs the huge player, but he's the bad guy the majority of the time. All these guys in this league, that's what happens. But we do it together. We talk things through and try to do things that are fair for the player and fair for us and then we move on. And we're very disciplined. We always try to be disciplined."

On whether the defense can be better even without Dawkins: "We will see. I'm not going to say anything that would slight Brian Dawkins. He's a great player and he's coming off a great year. But I will say that I think Brian was a good teacher also. I think it's important (to remember) that Quintin Demps is not Brian Dawkins, but he was able to see what Brian Dawkins did and now he went about his business. I think that was one reason why Quintin Demps had a chance to play last year and I think it's a great goal for Quintin Demps to shoot for. He should try to be as good as Brian was. To say he's there now, that's not fair because you're talking about one of the all-time greats.

"I think the linebackers have a chance to be even better. They're the same guys and they're getting another year older and they've had a chance to work together. And I think our defensive line is a very strong point. I think our secondary can be as solid as any secondary in the league and it's important that they are."

On whether second-year cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu can be the Eagles' fourth cornerback: "I'll tell you when we get into the minicamps. He's a phenomenal athlete and he's been going to all the meetings and doing all the stuff he was supposed to do, so we'll see how he handles the whole situation. I'll be watching."

On whether he'll promise that the team will make a first-round pick this year: "I want to maintain my flexibility."

Birds interested in Braylon...

So says the Cleveland Plain-Dealer anyway.

According to the newspaper, the Giants recently offered their second and fifth round picks to the Browns for Braylon Edwards, a big play but drop prone receiver that is a former third overall pick. The deal fell apart when Cleveland also insisted Steve Smith be included and New York countered with either Domenik Hixon or Mario Manningham.

The story also says the Eagles have also inquired about Edwards. Philly certainly has the draft picks to match the Giants' offer but it's hard to believe a Reggie Brown would be any more appetizing to Cleveland than Hixon or Manningham.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Drug deler apologizes to Buckhalter

Convicted drug delaer Styles Beckles has apologized to Correll Buckhalter for a written statement claiming that the ex-Eagles running back routinely purchased high-end marijuana from him.

"I want to apologize to Correll Buckhalter and [former Temple and Philadelphia Soul player] Keita Crespina for any personal or professional embarrassment I may have caused them," Beckles said in a statement released by his lawyer.
"I [was] coerced and manipulated into making a statement implicating these two gentlemen as purchasers of marijuana. The State Police wiretapped my phone, listened to every phone conversation I [had] in [D]ecember 2005 and January 2006 and twisted those conversations out of context to convince a judge I was a drug dealer. Nothing could be furthe [sic] from the truth.

"I never sold marijuana to Correll Buckhakter. The police listened to one conversation I had with Correll and decided it was about marijuana. Its [sic] not the truth. I have never sold, talked about selling or given marijuana or anything else illegal to Correll Buckhalter.

"I went to Temple University with Keita Crespina. Again, the police listened to a lot of private phone converstaions [sic] I had with Keita, twisted the conversations into something tehy [sic] were not and used erroneous conclusions about those conversations to convince a judge I was a marijuana dealer. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have [not] sold or given anything illegal to Keita.

"I hope Correll and Keita will accpet [sic] my apology. You do not deserve this. My life has been a real life version of ‘Enemy of the State’ since my arrest on February 1, 2006. And my life has been a real life version of ‘Training Day’ since I was rearrested on April 24, 2008."

The 36-year-old Beckles, of Clifton Heights, was convicted Friday on two counts of possession with intent to deliver marijuana. Delaware County prosecutors say they will seek at least four years when Beckles is sentenced June 2.

On the stand, Beckles also denied selling marijuana to Buckhalter, despite testimony from a state trooper who said wiretap conversations and a ledger notation indicated that Buckhalter bought marijuana from the defendant.

Buckhalter, who signed with the Denver Broncos earlier this month, also denied buying drugs from Beckles and has not been charged with any crime.

Rutgers pro day results

-Courtesy of Rutgers University

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (March 23, 2009) – Forty-one scouts from 27 NFL teams attended the Rutgers Pro Combine Tuesday at the Hale Center and Indoor Practice Bubble in Piscataway. The scouts watched 11 former Scarlet Knights from the 2008 squad take part in the combine, along with six other former Scarlet Knights from past seasons.

Among the group of 2008 Scarlet Knights were: Kenny Britt, Kevin Brock, Courtney Greene, Glen Lee, Kevin Malast, Jason McCourty, Chris Quaye, Mike Teel, Pete Tverdov, Tiquan Underwood and Jamaal Westerman. Several other former Scarlet Knights, including Pedro Sosa, William Beckford, Ron Girault and James Townsend also tested for the scouts.

The players went through a variety of drills, including the 40-yard dash, 225-pound bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, three-cone drill, flexibility tests and individual position testing.

Britt, Greene and Underwood elected to only perform in certain events after going through the entire combine process in Indianapolis in February at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Short 20 60
HT WT Arm/Hand Bench VJ BJ 40 Shuttle 3 Cone Shuttle
Britt, Kenny 6~3 210 33 1/8 - 9 1/8 DNP DNP DNP 4.40 DNP DNP 11.56
Brock, Kevin 6~5 255 32 1/8 - 9 1/2 23 34 9 ft., 11 in. 4.65 4.28 6.85 11.65
Greene, Courtney 6~0 215 31 3/4 - 8 3/4 DNP DNP 9 ft., 10 in. DNP DNP DNP DNP
Lee, Glen 6~1 196 32 3/8 - 9 1/2 7 32 10 ft., 2 in. 4.49 4.36 6.81 11.43
Malast, Kevin 6~0 236 31 1/4 - 9 3/4 23 35 1/2 9 ft., 11 in. 4.60 4.34 6.75 11.57
McCourty, Jason 5~10 193 31 1/4 - 9 1/8 15 36 1/2 10 ft., 5 in. 4.32 4.28 6.68 11.39
Quaye, Chris 5~11 241 30 5/8 - 9 1/4 24 29 9 ft., 1 in. 4.81 4.50 7.15 12.18
Teel, Mike 6~3 225 31 - 9 5/8 DNP 28 1/2 8 ft., 8 in. 5.01 4.59 7.65 DNP
Tverdov, Pete 6~3 268 32 1/2 - 9 3/4 33 33 9 ft., 10 in. 4.83 4.43 7.21 DNP
Underwood, Tiquan 6~1 178 31 7/8 - 8 3/4 DNP DNP DNP 4.34 4.16 DNP DNP
Westerman, Jamaal 6~2 257 32 3/8 - 9 7/8 20 36 1/2 10 ft., 2 in. 4.78 4.38 6.9 DNPSeveral of the players showed their speed in the 40-yard dash, led by McCourty’s 4.32. Underwood also put up stellar results with a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash. Britt finished with a strong 4.40 while Brock put together a strong run with a 4.65. Others who timed well included Malast with a 4.60 and Westerman’s 4.78.

Most of the current Scarlet Knights were in attendance watching their former teammates. Also in attendance was Super Bowl Champion Darnell Stapleton of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rutgers returns to spring practice this week with three practices. The Scarlet Knights are back on the practice field Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Monday, March 23, 2009

JRolling in Playboy

Jimmy loves him some Jimmy.

Jimmy Rollins may not be ready to kiss his own reflection like a certain Yankees third baseman but he is s going to pose for Playboy with his girlfriend Johari Smith.

The couple will be doing a fashion spread in swimsuits and other clothes.

Wings host auction to benefit ill coach

The Philadelphia Wings will host a benefit auction at the Wachovia Center on Saturday, March 28 following the 7:30 p.m. game to raise funds for the Chris Sanderson Cancer Treatment Fund.

All money from the auction will help Wings Assistant Coach Chris Sanderson in his fight against brain cancer.

Sanderson underwent surgery on December 22, 2008 at Duke University and travels bi-monthly to Durham, NC for treatments. While taking on the cancer, Sanderson’s biggest priority is his family including his wife and two daughters and secondary is his passion for lacrosse and coaching. He inspired his team when he returned to the bench to coach the Wings on January 10 in Rochester, only three weeks after surgery.

Sanderson, who also runs his own company called True North Lacrosse, continues to coach the Wings while wearing a protective helmet on the bench.

Items for the auction will include a round of golf with Wings Owner Mike French and All Star Geoff Snider at the Philadelphia Country Club, a 2009 signed All-Star jersey donated by this year’s NLL All-Stars, as well as autographed merchandise by the Wings current and past players. Teams throughout the National Lacrosse League will also donate various autographed merchandise to help the cause.

Phils option Kendrick

The Phils have optioned pitcher Kyle Kendrick to the minor league camp today, meaning the fifth starter's job will come down to J.A. Happ and Chan-Ho Park.

The team also sent out catcher Lou Marson and infielder Brad Harman.

Schilling retires

Former Phillies pitcher and noted big mouth Curt Schilling called it quits on Monday.

"This party has officially ended," Schilling worote on his blog, 38pitches.com. "After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world's best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official."

The 42-year-old right-hander last pitched during the 2007 campaign, when he finished 9-8 with a 3.87 earned run average in 24 starts for the Boston Red Sox. He missed time with a shoulder problem, but returned in August and posted a 3-0 mark in four postseason games to help the club to its second World Series title in four years.

Schilling also won a World Series crown with Boston in his first year with the team in 2004. In addition, he won a World Series title with Arizona in 2001, earning co-MVP honors with Randy Johnson, and has a career postseason record of 11-2.

During his career, the six-time All-Star posted a 216-146 regular-season mark with a 3.46 ERA for Baltimore, Houston, the Phillies, Arizona and Boston.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dealer convicted in Buckhalter case

Thirty-six-year-old Styles Beckles, of Clifton Heights, was convicted Friday on two counts of possession with intent to deliver marijuana. Authorities alleged that his customers included former Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter and Keita Crespina, a former player with both Temple and the Philadelphia Soul.

Delaware County prosecutors say they will seek at least four years when Beckles is sentenced June 2.

On the stand, Beckles denied selling marijuana to Buckhalter, despite testimony from a state trooper who said wiretap conversations and a ledger notation indicated that Buckhalter bought marijuana from the defendant.

Buckhalter, who signed with the Denver Broncos earlier this month, also denied buying drugs from Beckles and has not been charged with any crime.

Kixx soccer player charged with manslaughter

Philadelphia Kixx defender Matthew Maher has been charged with aggravated manslaughter after a fatal auto accident on the Atlantic City Expressway.

Maher, 24, was involved in the crash on March 14 that left 55-year-old Hort Kap of Philadelphia dead.

Maher's Escalade allegedly struck a Kap's Chrysler Town and County van, which overturned

Maher was originally charged with driving while intoxicated after taking a field sobriety test and having blood drawn at Kessler Memorial Hospital.

Maher, a Cape May Courthouse, New Jersey resident, is a graduate of Temple University.

On the turf, the KiXX close out the 2008-09 National Indoor Soccer League (NISL) regular season and the team's tenure at the Wachovia Spectrum versus the Massachusetts Twisters today.

The team has two potential scenarios to qualify for postseason play. The KiXX can clinch a berth if the visiting Monterrey La RaZa defeat the Rockford Rampage today. However, if Rockford earns the victory, then the club needs the Blast to also knock-off the La RaZa in the League’s finale on March 29 to qualify for the playoffs. Both scenarios require Philadelphia to earn a victory versus the Massachusetts.

The Spectrum, the team’s home for all 13-years of its existence, is scheduled to be razed sometime after the season to make way for Philly Live,an entertainment complex.

The KiXX are currently in negotiations with a Philadelphia arena for next season.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

'Nova routs UCLA for Sweet 16 Berth

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - For whatever reason, Villanova wasn't ready to play when it took the floor against a senior-laden American University team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at the
Wachovia Center.

The 14th-seeded Eagles lacked depth, however, and the No. 3 Wildcats were able to use pressure in the second half to overcome a 14-point deficit and stave off elimination.

A sequel against sixth-seeded UCLA would likely have resulted in a drastically different outcome. Instead, Jay Wright's club raced out of the blocks and dismantled the Bruins, 89-69.

Senior forward Dante Cunningham led a balanced attack with 18 points and 10
rebounds for the Wildcats (28-7), who earned a trip to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five seasons, and snapped UCLA's imposing streak of three consecutive Final Four appearances.

Villanova will now face Duke in Boston's TD Banknorth Garden on March 26 for a spot in the Elite Eight.

Philly native Reggie Redding and Corey Fisher each added 13 points for the Wildcats, who put up the most points against UCLA (26-9) this season and also handed the Bruins their worst defeat of the year. Before Saturday's contest, UCLA's worst game was in Arizona, an 84-72 setback. Redding also added a career-high seven assists in the game

"That's a great team," Fisher said. "We came out and played hard and got the win."

Corey Stokes contributed 12 points, Scottie Reynolds 11 and Dwayne Anderson 10 points and 11 boards for 'Nova, which dominated inside, outscoring UCLA 46-20 in the paint.

"As the game went on more, we noticed driving the ball seemed to be working for us a little bit," Cunningham said.

These Bruins weren't in the same class of coach Ben Howland's three previous teams that all reached the Final Four. Players like Kevin Love, Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are now safely tucked away in the pros but there is something about those uniforms.

The 11 national championships, the 18 Final Four appearances and all those big wins over the years. The Bruins' hard fought triumph over VCU in the first round on Thursday gave the program an unbelievable 99-35 mark in the tourney, second in all-time winning percentage to Duke. Meanwhile, a win against Villanova would have made UCLA just the second school to reach the century mark, joining Kentucky.

John Wooden's legendary teams, featuring the likes of Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Sidney Wicks and ex-Sixer Henry Bibby, compiled most of those gaudy numbers. But, this new era of Bruins under Howland's direction have been pretty impressive also. The aforementioned three straight final four appearances is certainly the crown jewel of the program but Howland's 14-4 record in the tourney coming in was nothing to sneeze at.

This latest group of Bruins is a defensive minded unit led by a trio of seniors that were shooting for the remarkable fourth straight appearance in the Final Four, guard Nick Collison, forward Josh Shipp and center Alfred Aboya.

Aboya, a Cameroon native that joined Collison on the Pac-10 All Defensive Team and also was named to FOXSports.com's national All-Defensive team, picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game and that seemed to open things up for the inside-outside game of the Wildcats. Meanwhile, it was Villanova that was playing the tenacious defense.

"We played great," Stokes said. "Our defense opened up our offense."

Consecutive threes, by Stokes and Redding, highlighted a 19-2 run and ignited the partisan crowd of 19,894 as the Wildcats led 28-11 with 10:45 remaining in the half.

UCLA seemed to finally get a break when Cunningham picked up his second foul but 'Nova was able to keep the Bruins at arm's length for the rest of the stanza.

Shipp started pressing a little bit late in the half and did manage to convert a conventional three-point play to cap the scoring in the frame with the Bruins trailing 44-31.

Villanova was extremely unselfish in the half with Anderson, Redding and Fisher all recording seven points. Cunningham, Reynolds and Stokes had six points apiece for the 'Cats. Shipp had 13 of UCLA's 31 points in the frame.

Despite the veteran presence, the Bruins didn't have a push in them for the second half. In fact, Villanova just kept pulling away. Fisher's floating jumper, 3 1/2 minutes into the frame, gave the Wildcats their first 20-plus point cushion, 56-35.

Eventually, Villanova would lead by as many as 25 points, 78-53, after Cunningham deposited a lay-up with just over six minutes to go.

Even Villanova junior guard Jason Colenda, who played all of 20 minutes during the regular season, got into the act with a pair of free throws to put the stamp on the rout for the 'Cats.

"I think our guys really were just aggressive for 40 minutes," Wright said, "That was really good defense and we played it for 40 minutes. We've had leads at halftime where we didn't come out as aggressively so playing it for 40 minutes was important."

Shipp finished with 18 points but didn't record a rebound in 31 minutes of action for UCLA. Collison donated 15 points and Serbian sharp-shooter Nikola Dragovic netted 11 points.

"They did a great job today," Shipp said. "They outplayed us, out-toughed us and out-hustled us. They did a great job jumping out on us , kept the pressure on and maintained their lead."

In the second game of the day, UConn continued to look a cut above everyone else that played in Philly when A.J. Price scored 27 points and dished out eight assists to help the Huskies cruise by Texas A&M, 92-66.

Jeff Adrien had 23 points and eight boards while Stanley Robinson added 12 points and five rebounds for UConn (29-4), which welcomed back coach Jim Calhoun on the bench.

Calhoun was hospitalized on Thursday for dehydration and released early Friday morning. He missed UConn's tourney opener, a 103-47 drubbing of Chattanooga on Thursday. Associate coach George Blaney guided the team in the first-round game.

Connecticut, the top seed in the West Region, will move on to face Purdue.

Bryan Davis had 12 points and nine rebounds, while Donald Sloan contributed 12 points for the ninth-seeded Aggies (24-10), who were unable to build on their first-round victory over BYU.

Cat Droppings:

'Nova is in the NCAA tourney for the fifth straight year, the second longest streak in school history. VU chalked up seven consecutive appearances under Rollie Massimino from 1980-86, a run that included the 1985 NCAA title...The Wildcats are now 9-4 in the tourney under Wright. Three of Wright's losses came to the eventual national champions, North Carolina (2005), Florida (2006) and Kansas (2008)...Villanova and UCLA are 2-2 in their all-time series. This
was the second NCAA Tournament game between the two schools. In the 1971 championship game, the Bruins topped 'Nova 68-62 in Houston. Members of the '71 team were in attendance to support the Wildcats.

I'll take LeBron over Cinderella anytime

Philadelphia, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - I'm an unapologetic NBA guy, but at the end of the day, I love basketball.

In fact, I'm a little like Larry Brown or Blue Chips' Pete Bell when it comes to hoops. If Brown wasn't a Hall of Fame coach turning around yet another franchise in Charlotte, he might be piloting his local high school team...or so he says.

Meanwhile, caught up in a scandal at the fictional Western University, Bell (played by Nick Nolte) confesses to his part in the shenanigans, and walks away from his high-profile gig in order to coach high school ball.

I feel a kinship.

If I wasn't lucky enough to cover the NBA, I would probably string a few high school games for my local newspaper. Basketball is that much fun for me.

And that's why I found myself at the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Wachovia Center on Thursday.

If you ask the average basketball fan, nothing is more fun than "March Madness." In fact, the NCAA Tournament is one of those sacred cows that's bulletproof. I've found that knocking the "Big Dance" is like kicking someone's dog, at least to the simple-minded who buy the annual hype of the thing.

And as a lifelong basketball fan, I found it amusing when I was recently attacked for telling the truth about college basketball.

You know, the common sense stuff. Things like the fact that the regular season has been rendered meaningless by greed and the mindless conference tournaments. Or the fact that maybe every kid and every coach in the country may not be all that Dick Vitale cracks them up to me.

The 16 seed has never won a game in the tournament.
Of course, it's not that I don't like the tourney -- I love it once it actually gets underway.

You see, I am enamored with good basketball so the real NCAA Tournament doesn't begin for me until Saturday. All the dregs will have been thrown out on their collective ears by that point, and most of the remaining teams actually have something to offer.

It's at this point where I can already feel the blood begin to boil and anticipate your next question -- What about Cinderella?

Well you have been hoodwinked people -- Cinderella is a fairy tale. A story of folkloric characters where the context is perceived by certain rubes as having historical significance. However, the superficial references to actual places and persons isn't steeped in reality.

Since the NCAA Tournament was expanded to 64 teams, the 16 seed is now a sterling 0-98 entering Friday's play, although some may take solace in the fact that Chattanooga kept it within eight touchdowns of UConn on Thursday.

Yep, that's great basketball -- I've seen executions that had more suspense than that. And, in case you are wondering, two seeds have dropped all of four games in the past 25 years of the tourney.

Take a look at the lowest seeds to advance "deep" into the tourney and you see the stark reality of "Cinderella" -- Two 14 seeds (Cleveland State in 1986 and Chattanooga in 1997) have made the Sweet 16. One 12 seed (Missouri in 2002) made the Elite Eight and two 11 seeds (LSU in 1986 and George Mason in 2006) made the Final Four.

Of that group, only Cleveland State, Chattanooga and George Mason would qualify as a so-called mid-major Cinderella.

But, even that misses the point -- last time I looked Cinderella wasn't a runner-up.

To me, many who tell you college hoops offers a better brand of basketball than the NBA are biased against the league and its racial makeup.

That said, the sudden death format of the NCAA Tournament certainly brings with it the opportunity for far more excitement. After all, one-and-done is always more compelling than best-of-seven.

Unfortunately, the NCAA's obsession with creating Cinderella results in far more mismatches than we deserve. There were four games at the Wachovia Center on Thursday, and I was subjected to two stinkers.

The most interesting affair of the day should have been the eight/nine game that kicked things off.

Texas A&M faced off with BYU in a first round West Regional bracket game. As expected, ninth-seeded A&M, led by senior forward Josh Carter and junior guard David Sloan, was the more athletic team.

After Jackson Emery opened the game with a three for BYU, the Aggies scored the next 11 points to establish control, and never looked back.

Things only got worse in the next game as the top-seed in the West Bracket, UConn, hit the floor against an overmatched Chattanooga club. The Huskies dominated the 16th-seeded Mocs despite the absence of coach Jim Calhoun.

Keyron Sheard opened the game for the Mocs by picking the pocket of A.J. Price and igniting the quickly-growing crowd with a fastbreak lay-up. Moments later, Nicchaeus Doaks deposited his own layup and Chattanooga, led 8-6. That was the last lead the Mocs would enjoy.

Chattanooga was down by as many as 30 points in the opening half and trailed by a ridiculous 48-20 margin at intermission. The second half was just glorified garbage time as the Huskies opened the stanza with a 15-0 run en route to tattooing the Mocs, earning a 103-47 win, one of the largest scoring differentials in NCAA Tournament history.

Am I missing something?

Is that fun?

Give me LeBron James until the real tournament games start.