Even if you aren’t a fan of NASCAR, chances are that you are familiar with the biggest names in the sport: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson or Jeff Gordon. You might know Carl Edwards from his Subways ads alongside that skater with the long, stringy hair and the stoner swimmer. Or, you might be familiar with Juan Pablo Montoya for driving into a jet engine and almost burning down the Daytona International Speedway.
Chances are that unless you are a serious fan of the sport, you didn’t know anything about A.J. Allmendinger before this weekend. Some brief background: after winning several races in the dying days of the open-wheel Champ Car series, Allmendinger transitioned to NASCAR in 2006. Since then, he’s had a serviceable if pedestrian career, earning a couple of poles and 29 top-ten finishes in 169 career starts at the highest level. He was better than a journeyman – he had earned a spot with Penske Racing, one of the better teams in the series if not quite elite – but not a championship contender.
Allmendinger is now the hottest topic in NASCAR after Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona but not for his performance in the race; it’s for his absence from it. Penske Racing was forced to fly Sam Hornish in from Charlotte as a last-minute replacement (literally – he arrived less than a half-hour before the race started) after the team was informed by NASCAR that Allmendinger had tested positive for a banned substance after a random drug test following last weekend’s race and was suspended indefinitely pending the investigation.
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Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers won the National League MVP yesterday, beating out Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m not going to get caught up in the argument about who was more deserving – I’ll leave that to people like Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times and every Dodgers fan I know on Facebook. At the end of the day, Kemp had the slightly stronger statistical year on a .500 while Braun played on a team that won its division. Where you stand on Braun vs. Kemp comes down to how much importance you place on a team’s success when considering how “valuable” a player is.
The issue I want to address occurs not at the top of the MVP voting results but a few places below. More specifically, I would like to know who voted for Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks as the NL MVP and how they can cover baseball as a media member without APPARENTLY KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT THE SPORT!
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Even most casual NASCAR fans know that Kyle Busch has earned a reputation for being a tremendous jerk. When you manage to get suspended for a race for intentionally wrecking another driver DURING A CAUTION LAP, you’re really going above and beyond the call of jackass duty. But let’s not forget that he’s one of two Busch brothers – his older brother Kurt is a former Sprint Cup champion and every bit the petulant child, even if he’s slightly better at hiding it.
It’s easy to forget that while Kyle Busch recently lost his driver’s license for 45 days for excessive speeding, it was his brother Kurt who was detained for drunk driving (although it was later reduced to reckless driving under suspicious circumstances) before a race in Phoenix in 2005. This led to him getting suspended and eventually canned from Roush Racing, which famously declared they were “officially retiring as Kurt Busch’s apologists effective today.”
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Usually, quarterbacks with 78.4 passer ratings achieve about as much national coverage as the World Kickball Championships. These are guys like Matt Moore or Colt McCoy, who we all kind of have the sense are not very good but not spectacularly awful, but we can’t be sure since we’ve never actually seen them play. They are the Arizona Cardinals of quarterbacks (and, not surprisingly, include the actual Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks) – lurking in the backs of our collective consciousness without us giving much of a second thought to them.
And then there’s Tim Tebow. Oh Lord, there’s Tim Tebow – the most polarizing figure in sports since Allen Iverson made us question the role of the proud, angry black man in a sport dominated by black players and rich, white owners. Of course, it’s easy to see Tebow as the anti-Iverson: white, humble and devoted to good causes and the Church contrasted to Iverson’s swagger, street image and overall blackness. But when you get down to it, Touchdown Jesus and AI have more in common than you would think.
When it comes to sports, Washington, D.C. has an identity crisis that’s suspiciously similar to one that Los Angeles deals with. The Washington Post recently undertook a major survey to attempt to discover what the average D.C. sports fan is like. It turns out that they tend to:
– Come from diverse geographies
– Hold on to their sports allegiances even after moving to D.C.
– Support D.C. teams only when they are doing well over a period of time
It’s the same broad collection of stereotypes that have been placed on Los Angeles sports fans for years – we are fair-weather fans at best, with just as many people being transplants and still fans of other teams than supporters of the local sports franchises. Sure, you’ll go to a Lakers game, but only if you can get good seats and can find a nice shirt that covers the New York Knicks tattoo on your bicep.
It’s hard to tell someone “don’t quit your day job” when that day job often only requires you to work for a few hours a day for a few months out of the year while playing a sport. Perhaps that explains why so many athletes have devoted their copious amounts of downtime to attempting to launch music careers. And while a few have been moderately successful (Bernie Williams, Oscar de la Hoya) most have been crash and burn disasters.
Fortunately, they’ve also given us plenty to laugh at in the form of ill-advised music videos and TV appearances. From time to time, we’ll pit two prime examples of bad music against each other. First off, we look at the music careers of two moderately talented soccer players from the 1990s:
Filed under Manfredi, Video
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The St. Louis Cardinals dropped Game 5 of the World Series last night to the Texas Rangers, and one of the major storylines was Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s inability to communicate with his team…literally. In a tight spot late in the game, La Russa had trouble using the phone in the dugout to communicate with the bullpen, leading to relief pitchers not being ready when they should have been and a pitcher coming to the mound who wasn’t supposed to pitch that night. It was the type of general chaos and confusion that would make George Will weep into his bowtie with the notion that the genius had lost his touch.
But it turns out that Monday night wasn’t the only recent mix-up for La Russa. A Sporting Nerds investigation has uncovered several recent incidents where the Cardinals skipper has had a hard time getting the recipient of his message to fully grasp what he is trying to say.
- Orders a large pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Imo’s. Winds up getting a pineapple and ground beef pizza instead, but doesn’t check until the delivery driver has taken off with his money (plus a $2 tip). Calls to complain but the restaurant is closed. Eats two slices before giving the rest of the pizza to Lance Berkman.
- During an interview with St. Louis radio station KFNS, responds to a question with the answer “Pujols.” Static during the call leads to a misunderstanding and a record $125,000 fine levied against the station by the FCC.
- Calls 1-800-FLOWERS to order a dozen long-stemmed roses for his mother on her birthday. Worker at customer service center in India bungles order, instead sending 57 daffodils to a confused Rene Russo.
- Fields congratulatory phone call from President Obama after winning the NLCS. Short from champagne on the phone line causes call interference with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is on hold with the President. Tactical decision to invade Kyrgyzstan nearly made in the confusion.