Tag Archive | baylor

Justin Bieber Takes my Basketball, U.S. Soccer vs. the Scut Farkus Affair, & Lip-Sync Love for Auburn

1—Two things confused me Friday night at the sports bar. 1) Why was Justin Bieber suddenly singing where my Kentucky-Baylor hoops game had been? And 2) When I checked my phone, how had said Kentucky hoops game leapt from the first half to four overtimes?

Say "uncle," America!

Say “uncle,” America!

Then I pieced it together. It was after midnight, thus the Bieber Fever, when the sports bar in my Millennial mecca of Arlington, Virginia, becomes a nightclub (and I start getting “ma’am-ed”). And the UK men had been playing so late because the #5 Kentucky women’s hoops team had battled #9 Baylor before the guys to win 133-130 at the same Dallas venue.

Yes I, a female sports blogger, saw the score on my phone and immediately assumed it was the #3 UK guys (who lost, coincidentally, to the #20 Baylor men). Shame on me because the ladies put up record-breaking numbers: Baylor’s Odyssey Sims scored 47 points, and UK’s Jennifer O’Neill 43, a career high—and she didn’t even start! Altogether, it was the highest-scoring Division I women’s game in history.

2—Auburn topped Missouri Saturday for the SEC title and a berth in the national championship, but fans are still talking about last week’s victory over Alabama. Auburn radio announcer Rod Bramblett’s joyous, “Oh, my Lord in heaven!”  ecstasy over Auburn’s last-second touchdown return has been lauded and played so often, fans have it memorized, including 21-year-old Kaitlyn Reed, who recreates the entire sequence spot-on in this video.

3—The 2014 Men’s Soccer World Cup had its group drawings in host country Brazil Friday, determining which teams will play whom in the first rounds. Team USA landed in Group G, which could be described as something like the movie “A Christmas Story”: the U.S. is Ralphie and pretty much everyone else is Scut Farcus. Group G’s other three teams are #2 Germany, #5 Portugal and #24 Ghana (the U.S. is #14). It’s the only group with two teams in the FIFA top five, and Ghana has knocked the U.S. out of the World Cup before. U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan tweeted it as the “Group of Death.”

Here’s hoping the U.S. goes all ‘Roid Ralphie on them: Kricken cracken goldang no good futzipuzz freckle crackle fudge fudge fudgers!!!

4—Speaking of Portugal soccer, you might as well get to know Cristiano Ronaldo now, because you will probably be seeing a lot of him when the World Cup starts next summer. The team captain, he normally plays for Spain’s Real Madrid and is the highest-paid soccer player in the world. He’s also very pretty. Naturally with so many gifts, a museum is being built in his honor.

Museums would be a lot sexier...I mean, educational,  if Ronaldo was in charge.

Museums would be a lot sexier…I mean, educational, if Ronaldo was in charge.

Except he is the one building it. Well, allegedly. Rumors differ, but Ronaldo’s home island of Madeira has announced a museum for the 28-year-old who, unlike most museum honorees, hasn’t done the courtesy of dying quite yet. In some cases he is just donating some trophies; in others, it was his own idea. Regardless, he can certainly back it up with 11 major titles and endless player of the year awards.5—You know of course about Nelson Mandela’s passing. What you might not know was the role sports played in his life and the transformation of his country.

Mandela was an amateur boxer in his youth, crediting the sport with giving him a sense of equality—your opponent was simply your opponent, no matter his class or color. A year into his presidency, his appearance at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg was considered the moment when South Africa was truly united—they beat New Zealand in an upset after years of being banned from international play. Later he was instrumental in landing South Africa the 2010 men’s soccer World Cup. Rest in peace, Madiba.

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“High Five”: A Jockey’s Triumph, Rainbow Gorillas, Goodbye to a Golf Great

I know I say this a lot, but the reason I write this meager little sports offering isn’t home runs and hockey goals, but the stories that stay with you, get you thinking. Or are just uber-cool. Here are five of the best headlines (out of dozens), and some other notes to know for the upcoming week:

1. Higher Power at the Preakness
Kentucky Derby winner “Orb” didn’t take the Preakness, but the real story Saturday was jockey Gary Stevens. Already a Hall-of-Famer, now-fifty-year-old Stevens retired in 2005 with debilitating knee pain and became a TV commentator. But he returned to the track in January this year after struggling with alcohol, depression, and a sense of loss that only racing could fill. Undergoing an intense physical and psychological rehabilitation program last year, he shed 25 pounds and embraced total sobriety. Riding Oxbow, Stevens led wire to wire for the win.

"Rudy" or "Rrrrow"? Either way, he will be missed.

“Rudy” or “Rrrrow!”? Either way, he will be missed.

2. Venturi Highway to Heaven
I admit I had never heard of Ken Venturi when it was announced the golfer had died of pneumonia complications at age 82. Great people die every day, and 82 is a pretty solid life.

But Venturi was the “Rudy” of golf (though quite a handsome devil). He overcame a severe stutter, suffered repeated just-this-close losses in big tournaments, struggled with lasting injuries from a car crash, and endured a years-long slump that would have most people typing up new resumes. Then in 1964, in 100-degree heat and with life-threatening dehydration, Venturi finally won his first major title at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., nearly collapsing in tears of joy and exhaustion. He became a longtime CBS golf analyst and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

PS–2013’s “Congressional” as most call it (officially the “AT&T National,” but I won’t say that until AT&T’s 4G isn’t full of it) with Tiger Woods and his frenemy Sergio Garcia starts June 27.  And on a lighter note, take a look at the video of Belgian golfer Nicolas Colsaerts at the weekend’s Volvo World Match Play, in which his ball lands in, let’s just say, a place that caused some “toilet humor.”

3. Baylor Stars Speak out on Gay Rights…and Wedding Gifts
After years of the speculation that—come on, people, we all do (out loud or in our own minds) about people with certain affectations–Baylor basketball phenom Brittney Griner has publicly confirmed she is a lesbian. Now an alum of the private Baptist school, the Phoenix Mercury WNBA rookie is openly discussing what she feels is the rainbow gorilla in the room of women’s college basketball—don’t ask, don’t tell, just rebound. She claims coaches and other advisors told her not to discuss her sexuality because it would hurt Baylor’s recruiting. More to come in the next ESPN the Magazine.   

Meanwhile, Baylor-star-turned-Redskins-QB Robert Griffin III is getting married July 6, and naturally some fans located his gift registry on Bed, Bath & Beyond. But when the 2013 Rookie of the Year Tweeted a picture of thanks—him standing in front of a mountain of opened boxes—detractors spoke then and did not hold their peace. Obviously a star athlete hardly needs help from the public to furnish a 10,000-square-foot house, so demands for him to return or donate the gifts to charity flooded his phone (as well as jokes—“put a better defense on the registry” said one Skins fan). Whatever he does, I personally want to thank him, at least, for his store choice. As a multi-platinum bridesmaid who once attended a bride registered at Tiffany, a $30 Lazy Susan option is always appreciated.

4. Jayhawks Hatch Fledgling High School Star
Whenever you doubt your kids will emulate you, take heart in this one. The #1 high school basketball recruit, Andrew Wiggins, announced last week he will attend Kansas. The 6-8 small forward (here I demonstrate “small forward” with awkward family photos) can play multiple positions and is as good a defender as offensive player. His father is former NBA player Michael Wiggins, and his mom is Canadian Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins. They gave him great athletic genes, but they also ensure he maintains his 3.2 GPA at West Virginia’s Huntington Prep.

But, Wiggins is already a heavy favorite for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like, next year. Which is something to discuss with your kids as this year’s draft starts tomorrow. Should a player be allowed what they call a “One and Done?”—one year of college, then on to the pros? What is the proper balance between money and education? How do you prepare for a future if your original dream fails? Lebron James is doing just fine, and he didn’t go to college at all. But far more professional athletes find that dreams of fame and money lead to bankruptcy, addiction, and worse. Speaking of Lebron…

5. Playoffs Continue on Court, Ice
The Memphis Grizzlies/San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers/Miami Heat NBA matchups are now underway. Winners of the two series will meet for the finals beginning June 6. Sadly, my hometown Grizzlies (key names: Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph) were declawed Sunday 105-83 (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, once married to “Desperate Housewives’” Eva Longoria), but the teams meet again in the best-of-seven series on Tuesday. The Pacers (Roy Hibbert) will meet Lebron’s Miami Heat for Game 1 on Wednesday.

In hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Sharp – or as I call him, “Why Wasn’t HE Cast Cast as the New Superman?”) and the Detroit Red Wings (Henrik Zetterberg) series continues this week, along with:

  • Boston Bruins (David Krejci) vs. New York Rangers (Derick Brassard)
  • Current champions L.A. Kings (Mike Richards – also Hollywood worthy) vs. San Jose Sharks (Logan Couture)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins (Evgeni Malkin) vs. Ottawa Senators (Sergei Gonchar)

Now go forth into this good week and conquer, ladies, knowing that your kids look to you, that no one can tell you how to live your life, and that you can conquer anything if you just Don’t. Give. Up.

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.

Don’t You…Forget About Them

judd nelson

Will you call my name, NCAA…or will you walk away?

In a fans-on-their-feet finish to a tight battle between even tighter Big East basketball rivals, the #2 Notre Dame women edged #3 Connecticut Tuesday night 61-59 at UConn for the Irish’ first ever Big East tournament title and a confirmed bid to the women’s NCAA tourney.

What’s that you say? Oh yeah. The ladies have a tournament, too, and you’ll see not only Notre Dame, but longtime #1 Baylor, Stanford, and Tennessee, which is playing its first season since 1974 without head coach Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach of a men’s or women’s NCAA basketball team.

The men’s Division I tourney begins March 19, with the championship game on April 8 in Atlanta. The women will play more or less simultaneously, starting on March 23 and wrapping up on April 9 in New Orleans. So don’t put away the popcorn just because the guys have cut down the nets; you have a whole other night of high-stakes hoops waiting 24 hours later.

Actually there are already several other highly-respectable tournaments already occurring in Divisions II and III and the NAIA. You probably won’t see these games on TV, but like the NCAA commercials say, most college student-athletes will go pro in something besides sports. These are your future leaders right here.

By the way, there is another tournament that will launch after Selection Sunday that is every bit as honorable and esteemed as the NCAAs…OK. Actually, it’s kind of like taking your brother to the prom, but the National Invitation Tournament, or “NIT,” predates the NCAA tourney by a year. Originally launched in 1938 by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, the event was for many years on par with the NCAA.

Today, being selected for the NIT–if for example, you have a .500 record but did not win your conference championship–is considered more of a consolation (or, some of the tournament’s many nicknames: “Not Invited Tournament,” “Nobody’s Interested Tournament,” etc.) But it’s a great chance for more playing time, TV coverage, and what sports should be all about anyway–a good and grateful spirit for having the health and opportunity to play in the first place.

This year the men’s NIT championship plays at New York’s Madison Square Garden on April 4; the women will play April 6.

Crimson Fried

Happy Monday! Having lost an hour this weekend, sung “All That Jazz” at karaoke (crushed it), and helped my dog out of this “accidental elephant” conundrum, I am beat.

Thus today’s post title, an homage to my state of mind as well as football champion University of Alabama’s mascot, the Crimson Tide–part of my previous post asking the classic sports trivia question: What school mascots don’t end in “S”?

"Reportin' sports, sausage style!" says my dachshund news hound, Chester.

“Reportin’ sports, sausage style!” says my dachshund news hound, Chester.

(But like my dog, why does an elephant represent Alabama on the sidelines? Beyond the obvious reason that you can’t stuff a sophomore into a “tide” costume? See below.)

And this post will also be fairly brief, as I’m treating myself to a couple of much-needed (half-price, off-peak) days on the tide of Chesapeake Bay. Ahhh, the sexy life of a blogger…

Super Saturday!!! Sort of.
Two of basketball’s biggest rivalries played out Saturday, though neither final score would suggest anything more than a yawn of a game. #3 Duke rolled over arch-rival North Carolina 69-53 at UNC, and the #5 Georgetown Hoyas beat the #17 Syracuse Orange at home 61-39. The latter was especially poignant for longtime fans as the game was the end of a 33-year-old rivalry: Syracuse will leave the Big East next year for the ACC.

Far more exciting, yet also a rout, was Baylor’s 81-58 surprise crushing of #4 Kansas (as Baylor alum and my Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III looked on). The two Big 12 teams aren’t really traditional rivals like Kansas and #9 Kansas State.

But unranked Baylor certainly didn’t see it that way – which is what makes college basketball so fun, especially in March. In football just one loss can pillage your entire season. But every day is a new day on the hoops court, and any team can win given the right spirit—thus the “Cinderella’s” you’re going to hear a lot about the rest of this month.

This is critically important as we enter conference tournament week. Any team with 20+ wins at this point has a pretty good shot at getting into the NCAA tourney, but for the larger conferences, it doesn’t matter if your record is 0-20, if you win the conference tournament, you receive an automatic berth. Which brings us to…

Selection Sunday
Ladies, if you want to experience Christmas morning without having to do any of the work, then plop yourself on that sofa Sunday night at 6 p.m. ET on CBS to watch the various bracket assignments made for the men’s tourney, which starts March 19 (sort of—Thursday is the real tip-off, I’ll explain in upcoming tourney tips posts). It’s really sweet to watch the guys’ reactions on live TV. And you can get a jump on Stu from Accounting as you fill out your bracket.

A few more notes for the watercooler:

  • Hockey’s Chicago Blackhawks fell 6-2 to Colorado Friday, ending the longest point streak to begin an NHL season and a franchise record 11-game win streak.
  • Yankees famed closing pitcher Mariano Rivera announced he will be retiring after the 2013 season. It is widely agreed he’s a Hall of Fame lock, which says a lot since not one player was voted in this year.
  • Tiger Woods won his 76th PGA Tour title Sunday with the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Doral, Fla.
  • Light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins, 48, defeated Tavoris Cloud unanimously on Saturday to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a major belt.
  • A bench-clearing brawl erupted between Mexico and Canada (yes, Canada) at the World Baseball Classic.

And about that Alabama elephant, he’s called Big Al, and he was born in early days when a fan likened the football players to pachyderms, and the name stuck. Like my dog in my shirt sleeve. But hey, it’s Monday…

Week of Wonder, Woe

Wow. Normally this week would have been bananas for basketball alone with Rivalry Week and the NBA All-Star Break. But other storylines are even more unbelievable, uplifting, crushing, and creepy (like spiders?). Oh what a tangled, amazing web sports weave…

Finally a Pole You WANT for Your Daughter!
Danica Patrick’s qualifying for pole position (first place start) for next Sunday’s Daytona 500, the “Super Bowl” of racing, is today’s headline on many national front pages, not just the sports sections. Reaching 196 mph, Patrick edged out veteran Jeff Gordon to become the first woman ever to earn a NASCAR Sprint Cup pole—and in its biggest race, no less. But Patrick is not the first woman to challenge the chaps; others have cracked the speed ceiling, most famously Janet Guthrie, who started ninth in two 1977 races.

Patrick was also excited to steer headlines away from her romance with teammate Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (he finished 12th) to Stewart-Haas Racing, her car, and, after a long day, “finally getting a sandwich.”

Ahmadinejad

Better put a tie on for this one, Ahmadinejad.

Top Women’s Teams Tip Off Tonight
There’s no shame in admitting you don’t follow women’s college basketball. It’s a game where finesse makes up for the physical prowess and agility of the men…oh wait, unless you’re watching #1 Baylor’s 6-8 “Most Outstanding Everything” Brittney Griner, who leads the NCAA in women’s dunks—yes dunks—and career blocked shots. And not just regular blocks, but hyperspace-windmill slapdowns that, well, let’s just say if Iran saw the footage, ain’t no space monkeys getting shot into Texas any time soon.

Iran can watch her take on loved and loathed Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and his #3 Huskies tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in the showdown of the season thus far.

B-T-Dubs, on tap for Wednesday: the best rivalry in the NBA, the Boston Celtics (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce) at the struggling L.A. Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash), 10:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Olympic Hero’s Murder Charge Stuns World
Oscar Pistorius did not medal at the 2012 Olympic Games, but the beloved South African double-amputee kept pace with able-bodied sprinters and even anchored the 4×400 relay team, earning the nickname “Blade Runner.”

But after a bewildering Valentine’s Day shooting at his Pretoria mansion, the 26-year-old has been charged with the murder of his popular model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 30. Claiming he thought there was an intruder, it’s unclear what happened between the known gun owner (South Africa is noted for high crime rates) and Steenkamp, who was reportedly shot four times through a bathroom door. Pistorius is currently being held without bail.

The event is another PR hit for Nike, who sponsored Pistorius most recently in sadly ironic ads reading, “I am the bullet in the chamber.” Previous sponsorships with Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and Michael Vick also soured or were severed altogether. But on the brighter side…

Michael Jordan Turns 50
Nike’s long-running partnership with MJ stands strong (at an estimated $1 billion in sales per year) as the greatest basketball player of all time reached one of life’s biggest milestones Sunday, the big 5-0. I used to work for AARP, so I’m not even going to make the old “time for his membership card” joke. In fact, the avid golfer and former minor league baseball player is nowhere near retirement, currently serving as majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and endorsing Nike, Hanes, and others.

(Just remember, parents, when your son wants those Air Jordans, they start at around $200, with some styles selling for well over $5000. Maybe best to go with the underwear.)

“Rivalry Week” Does Not Disappoint (Except Kentucky. And Sort of Duke.)
With the gaping void left after the Super Bowl, sportscasters geek out for “Rivalry Week,” when longtime college basketball enmities play out, the biggest ones on ESPN:

• #3 Miami continued its surprise surge past Florida State, and later Clemson, to a 12-0 ACC record.
• #2 Duke regrouped in the second half to beat nemesis North Carolina on coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 66th birthday, only to fall to Maryland 83-81 on Saturday.
• #17 Oklahoma State topped Oklahoma 84-79 in overtime.
• #25 Kentucky lost to Florida and lost their star player, freshman center Nerlens Noel, to a season-ending ACL tear.

Of course, many rivalries don’t make it to mainstream TV, but are just as important to, say, Memphis fans like me, whose blood Louisville has made boil since the 70s. And crowds for my Division-III alma mater Centre College’s  battle with Transylvania University give the fire marshal his biggest night of the year.

I asked some other local sports pals about their favorite hoops rivalries. Redskins Pro-Bowler Lorenzo Alexander  tweeted that he likes Duke/Maryland and “Cal vs. Stanford, of course,” (he’s a former Golden Bear). CBS Radio, 106.7 The Fan host and George Mason University play-by-play man Bill Rohland recommends Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion as a historic “mid-major” matchup.

You’ll hear “mid-major” a lot more come tourney time next month; it means teams not part of the six major conferences like the SEC or Pac-10. Gonzaga, for example, plays in the West Coast Conference, but is currently ranked #3.

Why is this important? Because believe it or not, people are already talking tourney brackets—here’s your chance to get a jump on Fred in Ad Sales. Hopefully these traditional rivalries will withstand recent whiplash-inducing college conference realignments (Like, Tulsa may be joining the Big East. Tulsa. Oklahoma. “East.” Huh?).

If you missed the games, no worries—many of the teams will meet again during their conference championships in two weeks.

Olympic Wrestling Grapples with Future
One of civilization’s oldest sports, wrestling, is on the chopping block for the 2020 Olympic Games. Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) moved to remove wrestling—a sport dating back to the ancient Olympics, Homer’s Iliad, and the Bible—from the lineup, opening the door for sport climbing, roller sports, and wakeboarding. Yes, wakeboarding.

To put it in clearer terms, this is akin to a school system saying, “Meh, why teach reading anymore? They’ll figure it out.”

The IOC board will meet again in May to firm up the 2020 roster. Wrestling will remain in the 2016 Games, but the bizarre combination of the U.S., Iran, and Russia will continue to lobby for it long beyond.

Fun with Fruit
To much excitement (especially for Washington National fans who camejustthisclose to a shot at the pennant last year), baseball spring training has officially begun in Florida and Arizona. The “Grapefruit” and “Cactus” Leagues are chances for players tune up playing each other, college teams, and other National and American League MLB teams. The games are inexpensive and played in small venues, giving fans great views and easy chances for autographs. If you’re still thinking over spring break, I recommend a trip.

The Itsy, Bitsy Spider…Ruins a Golf Round
Swedish golfer Daniela Holmqvist claimed she was bitten by a black widow spider on her ankle as she played an LPGA qualifying round in Canberra, Australia (just where does this woman store her socks?). She swatted the spider away after feeling a sharp pain, then used a tee to carve open her ankle to release the venom. She continued to play, although she did not advance.

The good news for Holmqvist is that she did not make her situation worse—medical authorities advise against slicing open venom wounds “Lone Ranger” style as this can cause blood loss, panic, and infection–and doesn’t help anyway. Also, black widows do not live in Australia; it was likely a “redback” a non-deadly cousin, but still one that packs a wallop. Either way, a tip of my visor to a determined athlete. (And for the record, any animal that eats its men and cleans its house every single day also has my respect.)

In Other Ankle News…
Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, the NHLs 2012 defensive player of the year, is out for the season after his left Achilles was sliced by a skate Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh. Officials determined the tangle and resulting injury from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke was an accident.

NBA All-Star Week
Taking a hiatus from their regular schedules, NBA teams had a little fun this week in Houston with their annual “break” activities like the dunk contest (won by Toronto Raptors guard Terrance Ross) and the All-Star Game. L.A. Clippers’ guard Chris Paul led the West to a 143-138 victory over the East Sunday night. Although the game is really meant to showcase players’ abilities to fans without pressure, the outcome only fueled discussions about potential MVP candidates, including Paul, Miami’s Lebron James (whose recent stats are too staggering even to get into), and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.

P.S. Durant starred as himself last year in “Thunderstuck,” a fun family film about an uncoordinated kid who magically exchanges basketball powers with the OKC star.

Goodbye to Buss
Tempering the All-Star celebrations was the death Monday of longtime Lakers’ Hall of Fame owner Jerry Buss, who succumbed to cancer at age 80. Buss was widely adored and presided over 10 of L.A.’s 16 titles. He revolutionized basketball, upping the element of entertainment behind the talents of greats like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal.