July 18, 2005
WSOP champ
Joseph Hachem:

Australian first-timer wins the biggest title in poker after a grueling 14-hour marathon of a final table. Oh, wait: Was I not supposed to spoil that?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Dominance has its drawbacks.

"How much will Tiger win by?" is simply not nearly as dramatic as "Will Tiger pull it out?"

Tiger winning the British Open in a 5-shot runaway, leading nearly wire-to-wire, is -- speaking for casual golf fans -- less interesting than a fight.

Here's the problem with golf's "Big One" phenomenon: It's boring.

Tiger's dominance has no novelty anymore; frankly, it peaked with his epic Masters blowout more than a half-decade ago.

To maintain fan interest, Tiger's main competition can't be Nicklaus -- can't be history.

It's just too much delayed gratification to wait for: Only 8 more to go!

Tiger is the best golfer of our generation; perhaps even the best of all time. But even in a setting like Old Europe, coronations are a snoozer.

The "Big Four" is a marketing gimmick; we all know it's Big Tiger, alone at the top. His competition doesn't have to be Vijay or Phil or Ernie. It could be anyone; Tiger simply needs someone else to make things interesting.

Yanks' Leit Motif
Ancient history: Al Leiter's embarrassing NL record of 3-7 (6.64 ERA) as a disgruntled and dismissed member of the Marlins.

Instant history: Leiter's Cy-worthy AL record of 1-0 (1.42 ERA), after his dramatic spot start W for the Yankees Sunday at Fenway.

Amazingly, after you think all plot twists are exhausted, the rivalry produces yet another one. Leiter is the perfect guy to handle the pressure.

Now New York is only .5 GB Boston, with all the mo (and all the Mo; Rivera was as nasty as ever).

Rafael Palmeiro: 3,000-plus hits should make Hall a lock
Jermain Taylor: Beats Hopkins (by dec.); next boxing star?
Ron Artest: Stellar summer debut (23 pts on Fri; 25 Sun)
Jack McKeon: Fish manager to be axed? (via Sun-Sentinel)
Shaun Alexander leaving Seattle: RB in talks with team
Michelle Wie: So she didn't make '06 Masters. Soon enough.
14-Game Winners
Carpenter tops Clemens: OK, maybe the right guy DID start in the All-Star Game. Cards sweep would-be WC contender Astros.

Garland leads W-Sox to sweep over would-be contender Indians. Any lingering All-Star break questions about ChiSox' worthiness as legit?

MLB Trade Season
The biggest impact of the Red Sox losing 3 of 4 to the Yankees?

The Orioles might have just lost their window to be aggressive and trade for Florida SP A.J. Burnett.

Playing "Can You Top This?" with the Yankees, the Red Sox must surely want their own Marlins import.

Bonds Watch
Quote of Day: "I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever I'll be back next year." That's great and all, but what about *this* year?

Mark Cuban in MLB?
For a league as interested in re-inventing itself for the 21st Century, Mark Cuban would be a phenomenal fit as a major-league owner. Noisy, yes, but exactly the innovative voice the owners need.

Getting him into Pittsburgh, specifically, would be even better: One of the most struggling franchises could use his brand of enthusiasm (if "enthusiasm" means "loot").

It's the only hope that pitching phenom Zach Duke (riding 17-inning scoreless streak) won't win all his Cy Youngs with the Yankees or Red Sox.

NFL Heating Up
Biggest move of offseason: The Pats locked up personnel guru Scott Pioli, the most valuable executive in the NFL.

Travis Henry to Titans? Will he like backing up another young incumbent RB (Chris Brown)? Flip side: Did he see how Norm Chow used Reggie Bush at USC?

Training camp mania: Let the countdown begin. (Intriguing Dolphins, rebuilding Bears and dynastic Pats kick off camping this weekend.)

50 in 50: NH
Impressions of New Hampshire:

Home of Carlton Fisk:
One of that handful of states that can be defined by a single mainstream sports star. (They could really use a new one, couldn't they? Hey, about Chris Carpenter!)

New England's hub for NASCAR:
"Stahk Cah Racin'": Good ol' boys must cringe at the linguistic twist, but it's a key outpost for the sport (Tony Stewart won New England 300 there Sunday).

Roy Williams:
If he didn't understand the rules about approving payments to graduating players, maybe the NCAA should take a peek at Roy's entire history.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie live!
P2: Tall Tales
MLB Hot/Not
3000 Hit/500 HR Club
Hank Aaron
3,771/755: Unreachable?
Willie Mays
3,283/660: Best all-around?
Eddie Murray
3,225/504: Raffy clone?
Rafael Palmeiro
3004/566: Not HOF-worthy?!?
Nobody else
And THAT'S why Raffy is HOF

Tour de Lance: Sunday's ride through the steep hills was the most intense athlete-fan interaction in all of sports. Gripping claustrophobia.

Pat Riley watch: Speculation about Riley returning to coaching in Miami is a heck of a lot more fun than the boredom about Brown in Detroit.

NASCAR: Tony Stewart is sizzling right now, having won 3 of his last 4 races. (Gordon, Earnhardt, Harvick still outside the Chase for the Championship cutoff.)

More racing: Danica gets another top 10 IndyCar race finish, but it's Dario (That's "Mrs. Judd" to you and me) who took the Firestone Indy 200.

More NBA summer: Bogut had 16/11 on Sun., following 21/13 on Sat (both Bucks Ls). Meanwhile, both Marvin and Deron Williams had subdued debuts.

Victor Conte cops a plea: And isn't THAT just about the most unsatisfying result of this entire steroids scandal?

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