July 8, 2004
Lance Armstrong:
Needed only four stages to take over the lead of the Tour de Lance. To maintain our interest, that's where he's gotta stay.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Swimming sensation Michael Phelps ... Lance Armstrong ... Michelle Wie ... "Jeopardy" champ Ken Jennings. What do they have in common?

All represent the lone shot that so-called "minor" sports have of attracting widespread fan attention. (OK, maybe "Jeopardy" as a sport is a stretch, but stick with me here.)

Minor sports have zero chance of making the leap to full-year, mainstream relevance of NFL, NBA, MLB and -- most recently -- NASCAR; the best any minor can hope for is to capture fan attention for a very limited stretch of time -- and build a business around that.

The "Best-Ever" Factor becomes the tipping point for any minor sport: If fans can see something that's never been done before (or hasn't been done in their generation), they are willing to spend a slice of their increasingly fragmented attention span. The Olympics have banked on that for decades.

Don't expect swimming to be the new NASCAR (though it's nearly that huge in Australia). But for this week? Good enough to make the lead story of ESPN.com.

Kobe Watch
The Suns made a surprise offer to Clippers guard Quentin Richardson. (So how does that impact the Kobe Watch?) Once Phoenix signed Nash, they were out of the Bryant bidding, leaving only the Lakers and the Clippers (who were banking they could re-sign Q as the backup plan if they couldn't land Kobe). Oops.

Timetable accelerated: On Tuesday, the Clips will have 15 days to match Q's Suns deal -- which effectively means a two-week deadline to convince Kobe. Changing the team name, in his honor, to "Klippers" is still the best recruiting idea.

Matta to Ohio St.
Thad Madness: Considering the precocious way Matta led lightly regarded Xavier to the Elite Eight -- the best coaching job in all of college hoops last year, let alone the state of Ohio -- the Buckeyes scored a coup by landing the 36-year-old, who has the potential to revive and grow the program for 20 years.

Twins: Thrown 3 straight complete-game shutouts
Dodgers P Kaz Ishii: Throws a 1-hitter vs. the D-Backs
Tigers: Throw Yanks for loop; W 1st series in NY since '96
A's: Get crushed (again) by the Red Sox in Boston, 11-3
Dan O'Brien: Oly comeback fizzles (like "Dan vs. Dave")
Lew Ford: Hello, his Extra Man campaign?? Whosaidwhatnow?
MLB Attendance Up
Not just up, but up huge: 11.4 percent over last year. The All-Star break is a good time to go back and re-examine preseason predictions; of all mine, the biggest was this:

Following last season's best-ever playoffs, this would be the best season in a baseball generation. (Yes, italics signal "flashback.") The attendance numbers actually make me right (for once).

Big Unit Rumors
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein denies rumors that he's going to woo Randy Johnson at the All-Star Game next week? I completely understand (what, with those pesky "tampering" penalties).

But even if he can't land Randy, Theo's next-best option is to do whatever it takes to make sure the Unit ends up anywhere but with the Yankees.

Idea: Nothing would frustrate the Boss more (aside from his current pitching) than the Mets -- suddenly one game out of first! -- swooping in (with Theo's help, of course, perhaps with a three-way trade).

MLB's X-Men
Love the Web voting for the MLB All-Star Game's "Extra Man." Hardly a surprise that Hideki Matsui got the nod in the AL (would love to see the percentage of votes from Japan), but it was great to see deserving Phillies OF Bobby Abreu get picked.

Braves Make Moves
"We should be the ones in San Juan," Braves manager Bobby Cox said, after sweeping the Expos and pouring on 26 runs in three games. Of course, the Braves' fan base is so iffy, would they even notice if the team went South?

P.S.: Braves just 1.5 games behind first-place Philly.

New Angels Name?
The City of Anaheim won't let Angels owner Arte Moreno change the team name to "L.A. Angels," which Moreno wants to better reflect (who are we kidding: to market to) the team's wider SoCal fan base.

If owner he really wants a marketing boost -- especially with the kids -- the team renaming is simple and surely agreeable to all:

"The OC Angels" (Cue catchy alt-rock music and images of teen hotties hooking up.)

Amish in the City:
Controversial reality series is back on the schedule for later this month. Odds on seeing daylight? Still slim.
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: What the Heck Were They Thinking?
Vote for ESPY winners
IN: Guys on the trade block
pretenders of
last 5 years
But Arena on up-and-up
Needs its Michelle Wie
College baseball
But watch softball!
Nah: Jokes too easy ...
Just kidding: Faddish

The Magic rebuilding continues, with shot-happy Hedo Turkoglu joining (6yr/$39M) shot-happy Steve Francis and rookie Dwight Howard ...

Bonds Watch: Just 1 free pass from tying own single-season IBB record, set in '02. Wildest part? He'll break it in half the time ...

Hmm: Maybe today will finally be the day that the Lakers announce Rudy T as coach, and end the lame distraction ...

Vince Carter Trade Rumor: He's angry because he had no say in personnel moves; didn't that screw up the Raptors in the first place? ...

In the biggest (or maybe *only*) league-merger news since the NBA-ABA, Japan's Central and Pacific baseball are talking ...

Are the D-Rays for real? A series starting today in New York versus the struggling Yankees will be the ultimate litmust test ...

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