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Omaha! Omaha! (The Actual Omaha), and Bo Knows Throws

HOTTY TODDY! (Actually pretty much a hotty all the way around)

HOTTY TODDY! (Pretty much a hotty all the way ’round, we think.)

So yesterday when we discussed the ridonculous amount of major sporting events going on the next few weeks, my guy friends reminded me that I left out an event: The College World Series (or what annual host city Omaha, Nebraska calls “The Best 10 Days of the Year. Or at All, Ever, Really. I Mean, We’re Freaking OMAHA.”)

Beginning Saturday, yes, the finest college baseball teams (even though school ended, like, three weeks ago) will meet in the Midwest to determine who will be the biggest diamond studs.

I’m in the Ole Miss camp myself, because they are the SEC, and also because my Mississippi relatives will disown me if I don’t pull for the Rebels. But no matter who you go to bat for, this field of dreams is worth watching.

Also, while many agreed that Yoenis Cespedes’ 300-foot throw to home the other night was truly one of the best baseball throws ever, I heard many other suggestions to top it. Too many to name actually, but the one that stood out most was Bo Jackson (also an SEC college player, Auburn) in 1989 when he threw out the Mariners’ Harold Reynolds–not a slow man–at home, flat-footed from the warning track. 

The entire Jackson highlight reel below is only-Bo-Knows how awesome, but see “The Throw” at around 1:32.

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Got Balls? (And Don’t Want to Use Them Anymore?)

College basketball brackets aren’t the only thing people are slicing and dicing this week—how about…testicles???

Vasectomy Challenge

Dr. Shin prepares to operate on Mike. Maybe he can afford to do laundry now. (Photo courtesy of Junkie Eric Bickel, Twitter)

Yes, today was the culmination of the second annual VASECTOMY MADNESS Challenge from Washington DC radio jocks (ha, yeah I said it) The Sports Junkies of station 106.7 The Fan.

(Want to enter next year? Remember the URL 1067TheFan.com/BALLS. I can’t make this stuff up.)

Desperate area men submitted their stories in hopes listeners would vote for them to win a free vasectomy from Doctors Paul Shin and Jason Engel, of Urologic Surgeons of Washington. The three finalists included:

Mike, whose wife underwent successful in vitro fertilization, resulting in their three kids. Annnnd, that’s enough he says. Plus having more kids would put his wife at serious risk because of a fallopian tube disorder.

Eric, whose wife’s third pregnancy resulted from a party hosted by the Junkies themselves. Now she is on bedrest with an I.V., and he’s taking off work to care for the kids—so less money for growing costs. And then there’s our winner…

Cowboy Mike, who sort of defies explanation beyond, as one Junkie put it, “dirty.” For one, Mike lives in an actual  “yurt,” sort of like one of those “Game of Thrones” tents, minus the wine and wenches.

Mike has two kids with his “woman.” According to his entry on the website, they “love the tiny bastards but aren’t equipped to raise a third” since they live on her family’s farm and she, apparently, “keeps getting more animals for us to care for when we don’t have the money or time to care for ourselves. I’ve had sex ONCE since she had the second kid and I’m terrified that the one time it happens again will lead to another bundle of endless joy. You know you need to get laid when watching a conga line of male hogs is truly entertaining.”

“Woman” has several jobs, and Mike is a builder (“but I don’t have insurance–don’t tell the government, please!”)

His pleas paid off in a live morning procedure, described play-by-play by the Junkies as Dr. Shin “assisted” this man who showered the night before, but arrived for his procedure in dirty socks.

Well, now he can get down and dirty all he wants. Congratulations, Mike!

And don’t forget, college hoops brackets are due Thursday noon ET. There are many free sites out there – ESPN and the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, just to name a few. So pick by point guards, team colors, mascots, whatever, just make your picks and you could win a fortune.

Or at least an intensely personal medical procedure. For thousands of people to hear.

High Five! Denver Upends KC, JJ Sprints to Title, and a UFC Champ–or Is He?

1) Despite two ankles wrapped like “mummy” and not “Manning,” an injured Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos handed the Kansas City Chiefs their first defeat Sunday night, 27-17 at Denver. KC was the last undefeated team in the NFL—a surprising and commendable turn of events for a team that ended last season with a fired coach, a player’s murder-suicide, and a new head coach, Andy Reid, who himself was fired after a long, spotty career with the Eagles.  The matchup was also anticipated because Denver and KC are also in the same division, the AFC West, and are two of the nation’s best teams, both now at 9-1. Denver is still without head coach John Fox, recovering from a successful aortic valve transplant two weeks ago.

Georges St-Pierre

You should have seen the other guy. (Accccctually the other guy looked pretty OK.)

2) In a questionable split-decision, followed by an even more bizarre statement of potential retirement, beloved—and bloodied—UFC champion Georges St-Pierre successfully defended his welterweight title a ninth time Saturday, beating Johny Hendricks. As a normally “GSP”-loving crowd booed, St-Pierre (25-2) was named the winner, then stated he was having personal problems and was going to “go away for a little bit.” Although classy in his speech, a clearly stunned Hendricks remarked how unfair it would be for St-Pierre to retire, and deny him a rematch. UFC president Dana White claimed he does not expect St-Pierre to retire and will immediately seek to line up the two fighters again. “Georges knew he lost, his corner knew he lost, Hendricks knew he won, and his corner knew they won,” said White.

3) Less than a week after No. 2 Michigan State knocked off No. 1 Kentucky, J.J. Mann set off another men’s basketball upset when he sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left to lift unranked Belmont over No. 12 North Carolina 83-80 on Sunday in the Hall of Fame Tipoff. Mann finished with a career-best 28 points. The Tar Heels’ James McAdoo was not far behind, scoring a career-high 27 points with 13 rebounds.

4) Jimmie Johnson won his sixth NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in eight years in Homestead, Fla., Sunday, putting him behind only Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., each with seven titles. Johnson is the youngest driver to win six titles, reaching that mark 83 days before Petty. He’s also the fastest to six titles, as neither Petty nor Earnhardt did it in an eight-year span. Rounding out this year’s drivers, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon. Finishing in the middle of the Sprint Cup pack was Danica Patrick in 27th.

5) Finally, congratulations to my alma mater, Centre College, and its field hockey team, which lost in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament this weekend to Christopher Newport College, 1-0. It was the Lady Colonels’ first appearance in the tournament. Now, is there an American professional field hockey league? Not that I know of. Will you ever hear Shelby Judkins or Kirby Roberts on ESPN? Probably not. But you might see them owning it someday. Or in a boardroom, a corner office, maybe even the Oval Office. As the NCAA commercials say, most student-athletes will go pro in something other than sports. I can’t wait to see what these ladies do. Well done!

I Can Waaaave My Head–My 7-2 Head… “Up Top” with AT&Ts Basketball Big Men

Clockwise from right: Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and a no-name funnyman kids everywhere are happy to see get his comeuppance, "up top."

Clockwise from right: Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and the no-name funnyman kids everywhere are happy to see get his comeuppance, “up top.”

No doubt during tonight’s NCAA men’s championship, you’ll see the popular AT&T ads featuring a focus group leader asking schoolkids “what’s better, fast or slow?”

Except the latest group of students is taller than your average kindergartner. And certainly more…mature. So if you’re not a basketball fan, or were born after 1990, let me re-introduce you to these leggy, living legends.

Magic Johnson, 6-9, L.A. Lakers 1979-1996
I would call Earvin “Magic” Johnson, 53, a “phoenix”—someone who rises from the ashes to find success again and again—except the man never fails at anything. Be it basketball, television, philanthropy, or business (he even co-owns the Dodgers baseball team), Johnson’s charm and acumen have taken him from Lakers MVP  point guard to positive influence.

When he retired in 1991 after announcing he had contracted HIV, the world thought Johnson’s career—and possibly his life—were over. But the 1992 Dream Team Member and Hall-of-Famer returned to play again in 1996. He is now known for his HIV/AIDS advocacy almost as much as his rivalry with…

Larry Bird, 6-9, Boston Celtics 1979-1992
You wouldn’t think the great “Hick from French Lick” would ever have been bullied, but famed Celtics forward Larry Bird, 56, abandoned Indiana University after a month, tormented by homesickness and national star Kent Benson’s constant teasing. But he found his way again at Indiana State, winning numerous player of the year awards and leading the Sycamores to the 1979 national championship—only to lose to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State.

Bird was selected for the Celtics, beating Johnson for Rookie of the Year. Their rivalry breathed life into pro hoops again. They met numerous times, including three NBA finals. Still they became offcourt friends. Bird retired in 1992 with back problems but coached the Indiana Pacers NBA team from 1997-2000.

Interestingly, the next player found some revenge for Larry against good ole Kent Benson…

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 7-2, Milwaukee Bucks/L.A. Lakers 1969-1989
Abdul-Jabbar (born Lew Alcindor), 65, was the 1977 number-one draft pick, to the Bucks. Two minutes into his very first pro game, he punched Lakers center—yes, Kent Benson—for a flagrant elbow. Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand, but Bird was probably secretly cheering.

On the other hand, Abdul-Jabbar nearly cost us the slam dunk! As a player during UCLA’s astounding 88-2 record during 1966-69, the dunk was banned from 1967-1976 in large part to then-Alcindor’s prowess. But luckily, he developed his ambidextrous “sky hook,” a nearly indefensible shot that helped him become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, with 38,387 points (check out the sky hook—and some short shorts—here).

Abdul-Jabbar was respected for his leadership and work ethic (he played at UCLA for John Wooden, one of my 7 Classic Coaches to Know), but his disdain for the press was widely-known and cost him high-level jobs. He now works in various scouting and coaching roles.

But he wasn’t the only one to struggle with trusting outsiders…

Bill Russell, 6-10, Boston Celtics 1956-1969
The eldest statesman of this fine group, Bill Russell, 79, accomplished so much in his career the NBA Finals MVP trophy is named for him. A victim of chronic racism in his native Louisiana, he used his anger, kind words from his white coach, and a growth spurt to excel in high school after his family relocated to Oakland. His untrained style of play and lack of offense garnered him only one scholarship, to the University of San Francisco. But Russell saw the offer as chance to escape his past and dedicated his life to his game.

Racism still followed—Russell would be turned away from team hotels and denied awards he clearly deserved. While bitter, he decided not to let it define him.

In the pros, he elevated respect for defensive play, specifically shot-blocking and man-to-man defense, while helping the Celtics to win 11 championships. He was the first true African-American superstar player, and the first black NBA coach as well. For his civil rights work, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Now if these four legends aren’t enough basketball greatness for you, I guess you can tape a cheetah to your back and hope for the best. But keep an eye out for them—both in ads and live—tonight with other college basketball royalty, 9:23 p.m. ET on ESPN.

5 Reasons to Watch the Women’s Final Four (No, Really. These Babes Ball Hard.)

Female Final Four-titude.

Female Final Four-titude.

I admit it, I don’t normally follow women’s basketball very closely. (I played college volleyball, and I don’t follow it either. Or soccer, or badminton—like I said, this isn’t a “women’s sports” blog, so don’t hate.) But this is the first year in my memory where the mention of “Final Four” actually needs clarification: men’s…or women’s?

The ladies have compiled quite the quad this year—and in jaw-dropping fashion, including an NCAA record, a sister act, a Final Four first, and the absence of perhaps the best female college player of all time. But these four teams will more than fill the void in New Orleans…

Connecticut
It’s not uncommon for the Huskies to reach the Final Four; but six times in a row? No other team, male or female, has done so—and led by a freshman, no less. Six-four forward Breanna Stewart scored 21 points in UConn’s 83-53 defeat of Kentucky, as well as adding some impressive defense. Fun fact: Hall of Fame head coach Geno Auriemma was actually born in Montella, Italy. But he’s learned U.S. basketball pretty well, having led the Huskies to seven NCAA championships and the U.S. women’s team to gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Notre Dame has beaten the Huskies in all three previous meetings this year—can the Huskies change history tonight? Catch the game at 8:30 ET on ESPN.

California
It took an overtime period and 25 points from senior guard Layshia Clarendon, but Cal topped Georgia 65-62 in the Spokane regional to reach its first Final Four in school history. Clarendon’s composure—and a solid jumpshot—closed a double-digit deficit in the second half. Helping out were sophomore Afure Jemerigbe (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Reshenda Gray’s season-high 11 rebounds off the bench. Cal is the only Pac-12 team besides Stanford to reach the Final Four since 1986. The Bears are coached by Lindsay Gottlieb, just 35, in her second year at the helm.

Cal will meet Louisville at 6:30 ET tonight on ESPN. But Louisville had to slay its own Bears to get there…

Bummed-Out Baylor
Maybe even more shocking than the compound fracture sustained by Louisville guard Kevin Ware Monday afternoon was the Louisville Lady Cards beating the defending champion Baylor Bears, 82-81. Seemingly-untouchable Baylor had won 32 straight games, but 6-8 center Brittney Griner (second-highest scoring player in NCAA history, career records for blocks and dunks) didn’t score until the second half of a highly-physical game with refereeing questioned by an incensed Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who had to be restrained while challenging a call.

Still, Griner was a rare unanimous selection to the Associated Press’ All-America team Tuesday, and only the fifth three-time recipient. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said he would welcome her at a tryout. Whether Cuban is serious or not, it goes to show how serious Griner’s game is.

Notre Dame
They don’t call her “Sky” for nothing. Another unanimous AP All-American, Skylar Diggins found early foul trouble in the Notre Dame-Duke matchup Tuesday, as the Blue Devils controlled the first half. But her stellar second half outside shooting scored 24 points to rally Notre Dame to a 87-76 win and a third straight trip to the Final Four. (The Irish have fallen in both the last two championship games.) Kayla McBride, Jewell Loyd, and Natalie Achonwa added 18, 17, and 17 respectively—with help from 21 Duke turnovers–as the Fighting Irish (35-1) won a school-record 30 consecutive games.

Louisville
Only once in Division I history have the same school’s men’s and women’s teams won titles in the same year—can Louisville equal Connecticut (2004) this year?

After taking down Baylor, the fifth-seeded Lady Cards (28-8) had to face Tennessee, a perennial tournament threat despite its first season in three decades without legendary head coach Pat Summitt, who retired last year with early onset dementia. Yet Louisville built a 20-point lead and held off a late UT comeback to win 86-78. Shoni Schimmel’s 24 points were a big part, not to mention younger sister Jude’s 15. The siblings grew up on an Indian reservation in Oregon. Though they share the expected family rivalry, the Schimmels hope to share in a Louisville championship.

10 Must-Know Sports Miracles (or Forget Slippers, Cinderella Wears a Sports Bra)

As I watched Florida Gulf Coast University celebrate advancing to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, the first-ever 15-seed to do so, my buddy Jorge suggested I revisit some of sports’ other upsets, unusual runs, and astonishing accomplishments we never tire of seeing replayed because they remind us that anything is possible.

These are just a fraction of hundreds of heroic moments any sports fan should know—and I just stuck to the ones in my own lifetime!—but feel free to post suggestions of your own. Now, in no particular order…

Dolphins Defeat…Everyone
It’s my birthday this week, so let’s start with the second most awesome event of 1972. The Miami Dolphins achieved the only perfect NFL season thus far, beating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to finish 17-0.

ripken

Click here to see Ripken reach 2,131 consecutive games. (Courtside Tweets)

The Iron Man
Cal Ripken’s accolades would take up half of IBM’s servers, but the Baltimore Oriole infielder is best known for surpassing Lou Gehrig in consecutive games played (2,131 in 1995). He continued his streak to a voluntary end at 2,632 in 1998 and retired in 2001 a 19-time all-star.

That Slam Dunk…No, the Flu Game…No…His Return…No…
Like Ripken, it’s almost impossible to pick the best Michael Jordan moment. So I’ll go with what is simply called “Game 6.” Chicago was visiting the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan hit a jump shot with five seconds left to put Chicago ahead 87-86, giving the Bulls their sixth title in eight years.

America’s Sweetheart Sticks it to the Competition
In Montreal 1976, Romanian Nadia Comăneci became the first woman ever to score a perfect 10 (uneven bars) in Olympic history and elevating women’s gymnastics to primetime.

Eight years later, Mary Lou Retton would trail another Romanian, Ecaterina Szabo, by .15 at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Retton (who was nursing a knee injury) nailed two perfect-10 vaults, becoming the first American to earn the all-around gold medal and Wheaties boxes everywhere.

The Chase for Home Run History
In 1961, Yankees right fielder Roger Maris surpassed Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 season homers. But in 1998, for weeks, Americans watched in awe as not one but two hitters chased the record—and exceeded it: St. Louis’ Mark McGwire (70 HRs) followed by the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa (66). Sadly, steroid allegations against McGwire have since added a silent asterisk to the honor.

Bra-va!
You probably don’t remember what it was (Women’s World Cup Soccer Finals) when (1999) where (Rose Bowl) or even who played (U.S. and China), but you will recall Brandi Chastain’s topless knee slide across the turf after scoring the fifth shootout penalty kick to win the U.S. the title. Attired in exultation and a sports bra, Chastain became one of the most photographed female athletes in history.

Red Sox Redemption
Things were looking pretty great for Boston in 1918. They had won five baseball world titles. They had the best player, Babe Ruth, on the roster. Gin and jazz for everyone!

And then it all fell apart. The team sold Ruth to their arch-rival Yankees (where Ruth went on to post historic numbers—see Roger Maris, above). And so began the legendary “Curse of the Bambino”—an 86-year championship drought until 2004, when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals, never trailing in the series, and even Yankee fans had to smile.

“Hail Flutie”
At only 5-10, Boston College’s Doug Flutie was not your usual quarterback. But he made an unusually successful career, winning the Heisman Trophy and playing pro ball in both the U.S. and Canada. His prowess was due in large part to his last-second “Hail Mary” pass to Gerard Phelan to beat defending-champion Miami, November 23, 1984. The play is considered perhaps the greatest in college sports history.

Sampras Survives
Tennis has many historic rivalries and matches—Billie Jean King defeating Bobby Riggs in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes”; Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert; John McEnroe and…everybody.

Maybe it’s not really a “miracle,” but the match that stands out to me is the 1995 Australian Open quarterfinal between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier. Sampras’ coach Tim Gullikson had collapsed at the tournament (and was later diagnosed with brain cancer). Shaken, Sampras openly wept as he played, but won. He lost in the finals to Andre Agassi, but all I remember is his determination to honor his friend (who passed away the following year).

miracel on ice

Click here to relive the miracle moment. (curtchaplin)

Miracle on Ice
Of all American sports celebrations, this moment stands skates above them all—and I think even Jordan and Ripken will agree. It was a Cold War, literally and figuratively, for the U.S. hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. They were inexperienced underdogs facing an indomitable Russian squad with a 21-game Olympic win streak and considered by far the best team in the world. Yet somehow coach Herb Brooks led this group of amateurs and college players to defeat the U.S.S.R. and then go on to win the gold medal against Finland. Disney’s “Miracle” is the movie adaptation.

So will FGCU be the next miracle to remember? We’ll find out Friday night, 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

The 11 Easiest NCAA Bracket Tips EVER! (Sorry, Ted From Accounting)

No winnings for you this year, Accounting Department!

No winnings for you this year, Accounting Department!

In one of my favorite Cheers episodes, Diane infuriates Sam by choosing game results according to which city’s orchestra conductor she prefers. And winning.

Which is why when it comes to making a bracket, I think casual fans actually have an advantage; they haven’t been barraged with two prior months of BRACKETOLOGY! and Hoopdemonium with Hal! (brought to you by Taco Bell and Wells Fargo and…)

A bracket’s possible winning outcomes are 147.57 quintillion (more cool tourney factoids here). Even insiders have joked to me they have considered uniform color as a parameter. So don’t overthink it – get to pickin’! But here are some tiny guidelines just in case:

Don’t believe the hype. (#1)
The mind-numbing math is a lot to grasp even for experts. Don’t worry about all the algorithms, just stick with the basics—wins, seedings, and experience.

Then again…(#2-3)
It doesn’t hurt to consult some pundit pals. CBS Men’s College Basketball Analyst Greg Anthony shared with me he relies on strong seniors and road wins:

“Teams that have at least three starters who are seniors averaging double-figures are a good idea. Teams who have lots of road wins—those are the upset specials.”

Go with guards. (#4)
CBS Radio’s 106.7 The Fan host and George Mason University play-by-play voice Bill Rohland recommends a solid backcourt. “Guards win tourney games. Trust a team with above-average guard play.”

Just a few guards to consider: Peyton Siva (Louisville); Joe Jackson (Memphis); Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse). Sports sites like CBS and ESPN will give you quick looks at rosters and schedules. Note: “Vs.” a team means “home”; “@” a team means “away.” And for help on understanding the five basic basketball positions, allow my family photo album to assist.

Not-sweet-sixteen seeds. (#5)
It’s a classic rule-of-thumb not to pick a 16 seed to win even one round. It could happen, but not so far.

Then again (again)…(#6)
Don’t put all four 1-seeds in the Final Four either. This has only happened once in modern tourney history (2008). I personally pick at least two upsets for each of the four regions and cross my fingers from there.

What’s a good upset? (#7)
Teams are paired from end to end – 16 vs. 1, 15 vs. 2 etc. If I have particular vitriol for a 4-seed I might have them go down to the 13 just for fun, but I only have an 18% chance of winning.

However, a 12 has beaten a 5 almost every year since 1989. Pick an 11 over 6 and your odds are 32%, and they get better from there. If you’re looking to pick an upset, look in the 12-9 range.

Pick more than one bracket. (#8)
Spread the fun around. I always do a sentimental one that advances my favorite teams, no matter how many unicorns they have to ride, and a second bracket based on reality. Either way, I win.

You don’t have to bet or join a group to participate. (#9)
Find free blank brackets at any sports website (CBS, ESPN etc.) where you point and click your choices, then track them online as the tourney proceeds.

Location, location, location. (#10)
Teams are supposed to play at neutral sites, but it’s almost impossible to pull this off as the tournament progresses. A (hypothetical) top-ranked New Jersey team might struggle to travel three time zones and play a (hypothetical) 16-seed Santa Barbara at noon in Los Angeles, UCSB fans’ backyard. Take note.

Go with your gut. (#11)
If picking a perfect bracket were easy, and all the rules applied, then burger and bubble gum companies wouldn’t offer millions in contests seeking one. Go with your alma mater, the furriest mascot, your gut, your heart, your kid’s heart…you never know.

Because in the end, taking part in this grand, silly, exciting ceremony unites you with an entire country for three weeks – far longer than a one-day Super Bowl. You have common ground with your kids, your co-workers, your mechanic, that cute guy on the morning train. So get on board, and get those brackets done!