Posted on: September 26, 2008 1:41 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2008 1:42 pm
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The Human Side of Michael Phelps

For years, columnist Dan Le Batard penned his controversial takes on the world of sports for the Miami Herald. With his views, it was only fitting that he went from the newspaper business to sports talk radio. Countless celebrities in sports and entertainment have been interviewed on his show. These aren't the typical cliche-ridden questions that Le Batard asks, as he prefers to have his inquiries be more "off-the-wall."

Many of his guests on the "Dan Le Batard Show with StuGotz" on WAXY-790 AM in Miami seem to like his interviewing style, but there are some that end up being quite uncomfortable.

Enter 9-time gold medalist Michael Phelps into the fray. The swimmer may be the most high-profile athlete in the world right now after what he did in Beijing, so you can imagine that he's been doing tons of interviews where the same questions were asked over and over again, a lot of it about his charities. Even though he guest-starred on "Saturday Night Live", he still comes off as someone that is not great with the media. So he is obviously coached, and that could not be more evident when Dan Le Batard got a hold of Phelps.

Unfortunately for Phelps, he didn't see this type of interview coming. It was clear that his answers were a result of being obviously heavily-coached, but the best part comes at the end. He tries to politely end the interview quickly, apparently irritated from the format he is not used to, and thinks he hangs up the phone.

He did hang up, but that was after he turned to his handlers and commented on Mr. Le Batard, those of which were supposed to be off-the-record. Maybe he should talk on the phone under water, then he probably would know how to disconnect.

I've provided the entire 3+ minute interview here for context, so you can be the judge on how Le Batard conducts this interview and how Michael Phelps handles himself. The end is what makes this golden though.

9-25-08 Dan Le Batard Interview with Michael Phelps


Posted on: August 5, 2008 3:06 pm
Edited on: August 7, 2008 5:25 pm
 

The Moment I Became a Sports Fan

The moment I became a sports fan came back in 1990. It was a fall evening down at the Miami Arena, the first home of the Heat. Whenever my old man would land some tickets, he would go to the games, and now I was old enough to benefit from that.

The Arena was half-empty, the team was downright horrible. I realize looking back that my first basketball game wasn't a very memorable one if the night ended right there in that blow-out loss. What happened next was all I could focus on. In fact, I don't even remember who the Heat were playing.

While near the back of the lower level, in the corner behind the basket, I watched as Heat "legends" Alan Ogg, Bimbo Coles, and Jon Sundvold would run the floor. However, rookie big man Alec Kessler would steal my memories of that night.

One of the benefits of a half-empty arena is that if you are a fan that wants to have his/her voice heard, what you will say will get to the players. A couple of guys behind my father and me took advantage of the situation:

"Kessler you're a bum!"

"Kessler you (flipping) suck!"

"You're worthless, you stiff! You sack of (excrement)!"

There were plenty more 'statements' that were said, but I don't remember. As a six-year-old, this was my introduction to this new vocabulary. However, what happened next sealed the deal in my memory. Kessler turned around while play was going on and was yelling back:

"Hey, go (tuck) yourself (in)!"

They exchanged words a few more times (keep in mind, the parties were about 30 rows apart).

So my first sporting event may have included a half-empty arena that witnessed a blowout in progress, but my vocabulary changed forever.

**Kessler went on to play just four seasons in the NBA and averaged just over 5 points per game. He became much more successful in his next profession as an orthopedic surgeon in Pensacola. Unfortunately he passed away at the age of 40 from a heart attack while playing in a pickup hoops game. This entry is dedicated to him. Thanks for the memories Alec!
Category: NBA
Posted on: July 20, 2008 8:48 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2008 8:53 pm
 

Jason Taylor Deal Benefits Both

It turns out that the injury bug can help after all.

Washington jumped into the market for a defensive end when 12-year veteran pass rusher Phillip Daniels when down with a knee ligament injury.  Then 2nd-year DE Alex Buzbee was working with the second team when he ruptured his achilles.  That leaves Demetric Evans as the only player at the position with substantial experience.  When a team is going up against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and the stacked Dallas Cowboys twice each, a a presence is needed on the line.  The Redskins ranked 8th in total defense last season, so the addition of Taylor will help give Jason Campbell and the still-growing offense more opportunities to get on the field more often.  Taylor's production dropped last season (he still made the Pro Bowl), but it's to be expected when there is no talent accompanying him on the defensive side of the ball.  Seeing the type of players that led Washington to some defensive success will reinvigorate J-T and he will push himself and make a positive impact. 

With Miami demanding more than what was offered up until this point for the six-time pro bowler, the ears perked up when a second-round pick was floated.  While that probably was enough at this point, the Dolphins suddenly had leverage with the Redskins lacking in the DE department, squeaking an additional draft pick (2010 6th-rounder) out of the deal. 

Taylor won his Defensive Player of the Year award while in a 3-4 scheme two years ago under Nick Saban and Dom Capers, but he's played the majority of his career in a 4-3, and ultimately may be more comfortable in that setup, one that promoted defensive coordinator Greg Blache is expected to keep.  As for the Dolphins, Tony Sparano hasn't indicated if he will keep a 3-4 from his days at Dallas or will return to a 4-3 format.  Regardless of the type of defense, Taylor staying put would've inhibited the growth of new second-round pick Phillip Merling (Clemson) and third-round pick Kendall Langford (Hampton).  Veteran Vonnie Holliday is expected to already occupy one DE spot. 

In the end, the trade worked out beautifully for both teams.  If the Redskins can find consistent play from QB Jason Campbell, Washington can make some major noise and dealing for Taylor solidifies an already-stout defense is a great move.  The Dolphins were not going to do anything with or without Taylor this year, so they need to mold new defensive ends that would've only been hindered if he remained in Miami.
Posted on: March 11, 2008 12:01 am
Edited on: March 11, 2008 12:14 am
 

Gus Johnson: Music to my Ears

Our broadcast crews are second-to-none when it comes to broadcasting college basketball, and one of my favorites has to be Gus Johnson.

You'll be hearing plenty of him in this tournament, and in case you don't remember which guy he is, here is a great video of highlights called by Gus from last year. Most notable? Ohio State vs. Xavier last year. I still don't know what he said after that one shot, but I know it rocked.

Here is Gus Johnson Rise and Fire: The Best of the 2007 NCAA Tourney (of the games he called).

Remember when Adam Morrison dropped to the ground in a puddle of his own tears? Gus was there in 2006.

The madness can't come fast enough.
Posted on: March 10, 2008 2:01 am
 

C-USA Season-in-Review, Tourney preview

In terms of men's hoops, 2007-08 probably was the best season C-USA has had since realignment. A couple teams made enough steps to be considered at-larges for the NCAA Tournament, and will have a chance at challenging Memphis going into next season for the conference title. After watching plenty of league play this past season, here are my thoughts on each team and what to expect from them now and next year as the C-USA tournament gets underway this week.


UAB
Mike Davis' arrival at UAB did not get off to a smooth start, with a 15-16 record and a 9th-place finish in the league in 2006-07. He brought questions with him last year, but is already providing answers when Robert Vaden (#3 scorer in C-USA) came with him. The streaky-shooting Indiana transfer sank 138 three-pointers this year, and took over a number of notable games (41 vs. UTEP, 33 vs. Kentucky, 33 vs. Southern Miss).

Let's not forget that this quick turnaround occured without the services of Paul Delaney III. Four games into the season, the senior tore an ACL in his left knee, and is expected to apply for a medical redshirt. Last year Delaney averaged over 15 points per game, so expect him to team up with Vaden next year to immediately contend for the C-USA title.

'08 C-USA Tournament: UAB will face the winner of Tulsa/East Carolina. The Blazers recorded a 14-point victory in their only meeting with the Golden Hurricane, and blew out the Pirates. With them putting the biggest scare in-conference into Memphis, expect them to reach the finals. With the tournament in Memphis, it will be a tough task - the Blazers were steamrolled 94-56 at the FedEx Forum on Saturday.


Houston

There wasn't just a pop...an EXPLOSION could be heard at Williams Arena in Greenville. The Cougars' bubble burst (probably in flames) when they lost to lowly East Carolina. Houston was creeping into the tournament picture, and will probably need to at least make the championship game to be considered. Prior to the disappointing loss, Houston was playing great basketball, especially at home with a 14-1 mark inside the Hofheinz Pavilion, with the lone loss being to Memphis. Time is running out for UH's top three scorers (all seniors) to make a lasting impression. If this is to happen, Robert McKiver has to lead the charge. The 2nd-highest scorer in C-USA is capable of putting up numbers, with 52 against Southern Miss and 41 against UAB.

Tom Penders will have his work cut out after losing McKiver, Dion Dowell, Tafari Toney, and 5th-year senior guard Lanny Smith to graduation. Houston will be competitive in C-USA, but probably not for a title in '09.

'08 C-USA Tournament: The Coogs will await the winner of UTEP/SMU. With the stinker fresh on the mind against ECU, this is not a gimme game. Houston swept SMU, and split against UTEP. If they get past either of these teams, they lost a 2-point thriller to UAB in Birmingham. So if they favorites win all prior match-ups, look for a dogfight to advance to the C-USA championship game.

Memphis

They ran a perfect campaign through the conference slate for two years in a row, so why did I wait to mention the Tigers? Well, if you are reading this, you probably know all about them already. Memphis needs to win this tournament to get that all-important 1-seed and easiest route to the Final Four after back-to-back exits in the Elite 8. The addition of Derrick Rose has been fantastic for the Tigers, and when needed, the freshman phenom takes over games and gels this well-oiled machine together. Unlike last year, Chris Douglas-Roberts appears to be healthy down the stretch, and will get this team rolling. If they can start hitting free throws (dead last in the NCAA), look for them to appear in the Final Four.

UH was mentioned earlier as a team that needs to win now, and the same couldn't be more true for the Tigers. Rose will likely head for the NBA, Douglas-Roberts is a junior but unknown whether he will return, and Joey Dorsey is a senior. John Calipari will return a nice group of players and will contend for the conference title next year, but expect this unit to finally drop a conference game next season.

'08 C-USA Tournament: Tourney is on their home floor, undefeated in Conference Play for over two seasons, ranked #2. It would take a monumental upset to take out this team at the FedEx forum.

As for the rest

- With Southern Miss taking out Marshall on Saturday, Central Florida locked up the last of four first-round byes in the conference tournament. The Knights limped to the finish, losing to Houston and Tulsa, and also losing senior leader Mike O'Donnell somewhere in-between with a broken foot. UCF always has a player that acts as the 'glue' on its team, and with O'Donnell likely done, it's not looking good for the Knights. It's just the latest in a slew of injuries that include centers Stanley Billings and Jean-Michael Yotio, and 4th-leading scorer Jermaine Taylor. UCF did not lose to possible first-game opponents Southern Miss and Rice this season, but they will have their hands full without O'Donnell, regardless of the opponent. Look for them to follow up last year's 2nd round exit with another one against the Golden Eagles. What a shame for 2006-07 C-USA C.O.Y. Kirk Speraw; he did an exceptional job keeping this team afloat through the injury woes.

- Speaking of the Eagles, they are my most-disappointing C-USA team. Despite having no seniors on their roster last year, they went 20-11, finishing 6th. This year they finished one spot better, but posted the same 9-7 in-conference record, and regressed overall with a 17-13 tally. Southern Miss will have arguably the most favorable path of the non-bye teams. They will take on winless in-conference Rice first, and then an injury-hampered UCF team. Don't be surprised if Southern Miss advances for a tilt against Memphis.

- Tulane gets honorable mention as most-disappointing, especially after finishing 4th in the standings last year and toppling three SEC teams (LSU, Georgia, Auburn) in the non-conference slate this year. After losing the first two C-USA games, the Green Wave ran off five straight, then followed that up with eight losses in a row. Ending the regular season in ninth place, they will take on Marshall.

- The standings don't reflect it after back-to-back 8th-place finishes, but the Thundering Herd made huge strides under former Billy Donovan assistant Donnie Jones. They will finish over .500 for the first time this century. Provided that Donnie Jones stays for a few years, expect the Herd to be relevant in basketball for the first time in decades.

As for the here and now, Marshall faces a reeling Tulane team, with the winner meeting Memphis in the 2nd round.

- Tulsa regressed from last year, dropping from 5th to 7th this year, but the good news for Doug Wojcik's team is that they are 8-3 in their last 11 contests. Provided they get by East Carolina, they would face UAB next, and the Blazers may be vulnerable after losing by 38 to Memphis on Saturday. So it's a good time for the Golden Hurricane to play UAB, despite losing to them by 14 on March 5th.

- Former John Calipari assistant Tony Barbee's UTEP team has shown improvement, going from 10th to 6th. Did you know that the Miners also have the league's leading scorer? Junior guard Stefon Jackson averages over 24 points per game, and dropped in 27 vs. Memphis, giving the Tigers a scare in El Paso. Provided they get by SMU, the Miners will have a huge opportunity against the suddenly vulnerable Cougars.

- Congrats SMU and Rice, you've joined ECU in the doldrums of C-USA. The Pirates showed improvement behind interim head coach Mack McCarthy, with an upset against NC State and a late-season shocker against Houston. Other than that, they really were not a factor in-conference. As for SMU, the Mustangs are still waiting for their big coaching hire Matt Doherty to make a difference. The squad improved by one game in-conference, but stayed at 11th in the standings, and had a weaker record overall than last year.

Lastly, it would be expected that Rice would not come back as strong after losing Morris Almond, now tearing up the NBDL. But wow, didn't expect it to be this bad. The Owls were winless in-conference and 3-26 overall. Do they care about anything other than baseball over there?

So, as good as the top teams got in 2007-08, the bottom teams got that much worse, so the league has plenty to do in order to regain the status of "power conference" when it comes to college hoops. That aside, officials should be happy that C-USA looks like it is making progress.

Below is the C-USA tournament schedule (local time):


Wednesday, March 7
(7) Tulsa vs. (10) East Carolina Noon
(6) UTEP vs. (11) SMU 2:30p
(8) Marshall vs. (9) Tulane 6:00p
(5) Southern Miss vs. (12) Rice 8:30p

Thursday, March 8

(2) UAB vs. Tulsa/East Carolina - Noon
(3) Houston vs. UTEP/SMU - 2:30p
(1) Memphis vs. Marshall/Tulane - 6:00p
(4) UCF vs. Southern Miss/Rice - 8:30p

Friday, March 9

*Semifinal # 1 (CSTV) 3:30p
*Semifinal # 2 (CSTV) 6:00p

Saturday, March 10

Championship (CBS) 10:35a

My Prediction

Wednesday Winners: Tulsa, UTEP, Marshall, Southern Miss
Thursday (winners in bold): UAB vs. Tulsa, Houston vs. UTEP, Memphis vs. Marshall, UCF vs. Southern Miss
Friday: UAB vs. Houston, Memphis vs. Southern Miss
Saturday: Memphis vs. UAB
Posted on: February 26, 2008 12:30 am
 

Mike Tyson: Major Motion Picture Producer

It's been just over five years since 'Iron' Mike Tyson notched his last professional win in the ring, and less than three since virtual no-name Kevin McBride squashed his comeback attempt. The power puncher formerly known as 'Kid Dynamite' didn't stay out of the spotlight:

-He's been fond of tattoos, primarily to his face
-Tyson's fondness for pigeons prompted the former youngest heavyweight champion to construct a coop for his 350+ birds in suburban Phoenix.
-Was even linked to a stud farm owned by Heidi Fleiss, but Fleiss' PR staff claimed it was a hoax.
-Violating the law is what he's known best for of course, and is currently on three years probation stemming from narcotics possession last year.

Now Tyson is trying something new, and after blowing nearly $400 million since beginning his professional boxing career, he may be making a pretty penny as a movie producer. So much for fading into bolivian.

You heard me right. It's unclear what genre you would call the subject of his film, but since it's planned to be about his life according to Hollywood.tv, some might consider it a comedy. Before you laugh at Tyson yet again, he's somehow tabbed movie megastar Jamie Foxx to play himself. For you In Living Color fans, Foxx used to play the role of Tyson rather well, but obviously in this role it will be toned down and serious. Here's the part where I would link you to some of Mike's favorite hits, but since plenty of them have naughty uncensored language on the YouTube, I know my superiors wouldn't appreciate that very much. That being said, do we expect to hear any of his most famous quotes?

"My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children."

"I want to throw down your kid and stomp on his testicles, and then you will know what it is like to experience waking up everyday as me. And only then will you feel my pain."

Is Jamie Foxx that desperate to play the role of a former heavyweight fighter after seeing fellow former comedic star Will Smith take the screen as Ali? Does this movie have a fighting chance?

I'd appreciate your thoughts...
Posted on: February 23, 2008 11:47 am
Edited on: February 24, 2008 7:54 pm
 

Miami (not that Miami) to the Big East?

With the massive imbalance in basketball (16 teams) and just eight in football, change is definitely coming for the Big East. It's not expected to happen within the next few years, but maybe within the next decade we could see some renovations/improvements to the league. So when Connecticut football coach Randy Edsall mentioned the "E" word last week, message boards as well as the blogosphere exploded with the latest scenarios when expansion eventually comes calling.

I thought I heard just about every conceivable scenario. That is until I read a blog (or slog) by CSTV (will be CBS College Sports Network beginning in March) football editor Adam Caparell. He implied that in order for football to expand, the basketball side would have to downsize. We are probably in agreement with the idea of maybe a new conference breaking off from the Big East to form a still-powerful basketball presence. While the Big East wants the best of both worlds, football is still the big money-maker, no matter how powerful its hardwood side really is.

Once some form of change occurs on the hoops side, Caparell suggested that the next suitor for Big East membership should be a Mid-American Conference school, Miami (Ohio) in particular***. He talks up the long history of the Redhawks football program, which is hard to argue. They've always been competitive in the MAC, but being competitive and having history doesn't matter in this day of modern college athletics.

Money, television markets, and attendance matter.

Look no further than the last round of expansion for precedent. By now we've all heard of the University of South Florida, but 12 years ago that program didn't even exist. It didn't stop the Big East from admitting a program that had no accolades, not even a conference championship. With Tampa being the 13th-ranked television market, the conference knew there was room for growth. We all saw that growth this year with the Bulls being one of the stories of 2007. Attendance wasn't ever a big hit with South Florida, but with the program winning, seats were filled, upping revenue and recognition. As of right now, USF is a success in the eyes of the conference. Unless hit with sanctions due to recent academic problems, the Bulls will be around for a long time, being in the football-rich state of Florida.

Cincinnati was also given membership beginning in 2005, with basketball in mind. The football program has done well since the move, but basketball has floundered since the dismissal of Bob Huggins. Tons of empty seats can be seen on TV every time Cincy is playing football at Nippert Stadium, despite how well the team is doing. Announced average attendance for the Bearcats in 2007 came out to roughly 30,000. That is really disappointing for a recently successful BCS football school with a large alumni base and enrollment of over 36,000. There is obvious apathy when it comes to Bearcats football. Does the conference really need another school in the same market? (Miami University is 38 miles from Cincy’s campus).

Miami’s enrollment is over 16,000, and despite being one of the nation’s oldest football programs (dating back to 1888), the attendance is just dismal. In 2008, an average of only 16,186 fans made it out to Fred C. Yager stadium, good for 106th overall out of 119 FBS teams. Let’s not forget that this year’s team was one game away from a bowl berth (lost in MAC Championship), it’s not like they were 0-12. The numbers speak for themselves.

Before he said neither of these schools had anything to offer the Big East, Caparell mentioned three popular choices out of Conference USA: East Carolina, Memphis, and Central Florida. I only consider two of those to be realistic options for Big East admission.

I’ve been harping on the point that football is really the only sport that matters when it comes to the criteria needed for admission. However, basketball matters if you are really, REALLY bad. While ECU has been a giant killer on the gridiron in their football history (Miami (FL) is one example of teams they have owned), the basketball team is just terrible. 6-24 last season, 8-16 so far this year, and despite the two-win improvement, history has shown that they will continue to sit in the cellar. Regardless, the winning doesn’t matter has much as my main three examples of TV markets, attendance, and revenue.

ECU has one of the most passionate fan bases out there, and the football program is pretty good. The Pirates ranked 56th in attendance average with over 41,000 coming out, that’s not bad for a non-BCS program. The television market works against the Pirates though, with Greenville not even being in the top 100. This leaves little incentive for the conference to take on ECU with the limit the market puts on their growth.

Memphis and Central Florida have the most to offer the Big East. The Tigers usually find themselves playing in a bowl game year in and year out, and with the school always at or near the top of college hoops, this would provide a major lift to a conference that still won’t need it when all the hoops-only schools leave (this has to happen first before adding new two-sport teams, as established earlier in the article). The university is also exploring the possibility of a new football stadium on-campus, which shows dedication to growth of its athletics reach. Memphis is a top 50 television market, so that attribute helps its case. Geographic location works against the city, but these days in college football, it doesn’t matter. (Did you know Louisiana Tech is in the WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE?)

Since being passed over in favor of USF for Big East expansion, UCF worked at a feverish pace to upgrade its facilities and prepare itself for its future date with Big East presidents. A new arena and stadium are already in use, and the hiring of George O’Leary to get the program to a competitive level with the big boys looks like it is working so far with two conference championship appearances (one title) in three years. The basketball program came from the lowly Atlantic Sun and launched into the top half of a much-tougher Conference USA. Outside of Memphis, C-USA hoops is not as competitive as it used to be, but to have a big jump like that in such a short amount of time is impressive. If the nation’s 6th largest university can continue setting new football and basketball attendance, there is no reason to believe that they are not the best choice for expansion. UCF nearly averaged a sell-out (44,018 of a capacity of 45,000) for the season and reside in the 19th-ranked TV market. Like the Bulls, the Knights are based in the Sunshine State, so football has a chance for continued success.

Miami (Ohio) would have already punched its ticket to Big East membership if seniority matters, but since college athletics will always be about money and ratings, Conference USA’s Memphis and UCF are just better fits.

***The argument of Miami University heading to the Big East probably delights my esteemed colleague and Miami alumnus Eric Kay, who wrote a blog about two former Redhawks involved in the 11-player NBA trade a few days ago.

Posted on: February 22, 2008 2:18 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2008 2:38 pm
 

Lisa Guerrero Back in Front of the Camera

Sports broadcasting is a passion of mine, so you'll see me chime in on news surrounding the current and former careers of these fine men and women that never get the attention they deserve.

Or in this case...too much attention.

Remember Lisa Guerrero, the attractive sideline reporter that brought nothing else to Monday Night Football other than her looks? Well, she's back, but on film instead. Posing for Playboy or her lone appearance on the George Lopez Show didn't land her alongside Jeff Daniels ("You sold my dead bird to a blind kid?"), Henry Winkler ("eeeeeeeeeeeeey"), and Billy Baldwin (Billy is still around?). Guerrero's husband, former Twins pitcher Scott Erickson cast his wife in A Plumm Summer, as he is financing the movie.

Here is the plotline: "Set in Montana in 1968, two young brothers from a distressed home go head-to-head with the FBI to crack the kidnapping case of the beloved TV puppet, Froggy Doo."

After viewing the IMDB profile of the film, I think it's safe to say that Clint Howard's appearance as "Binky the Clown" will be the only entertaining aspect of this movie.

*********

Speaking of bad actors, onto the world of soccer...

A reporter across the pond decided to play "goalkeeper" during a training session against an actual goalkeeper and former Manchester United star Raimond van der Gouw....

The result? Two broken fingers and a sprained wrist.

Swallowing his pride, he continued participation through to the end of the drills. Major kudos to this man, but hopefully his "reporting" is better than his goalkeeping.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com