35! Let's look ahead: If he makes it to Monday, he'll have tied Jimmy Rollins for the team record (38). You can catch the Utley Show on ESPN Sunday night (8).
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
NASCAR's biggest hurdle has always been that for all of its success, it has remained a niche sport. Huge niche, but still niche.
You don't find many "casual" NASCAR fans. Sports fans seem to fall into two distinct categories about NASCAR: die-hard or dismissive.
To me, the biggest issue for NASCAR's growth was always what it would take for the sport to create a class of "casual" fans: Convert at least some of the dismissive (or at least the ambivalent) into fans.
NASCAR's TV deal with ESPN -- and ESPN's access to its massive base of fans of the "Big Four" (NFL, MLB, College FB/BB, NBA) -- is a start.
Ricky Bobby is the answer. As a huge USC fan, Will Ferrell might like my use of the description "Trojan Horse."
As "Talladega Nights" gets set to open this weekend -- and it has huge hit written all over it -- NASCAR should be credited for embracing the film.
As a parody with NASCAR-approved authenticity, the film can be used by NASCAR to prove to casual fans that it doesn't take itself too seriously, all while gently exposing these potential fans to the sport.
Ferrell himself is a convert: You get the sense that his original brainstorming to make a NASCAR comedy was all about the irony. "Days of Thunder meets Anchorman: Hilarity!"
Now the irony is the reverent way Ferrell talks about NASCAR, its fans and its culture during his P.R. leading up to the film's opening.
To get casual sports fans to be more positive on the sport (or care at all), NASCAR needed a mainstream vehicle to ease the transition.
Ricky Bobby gives them what could turn out to be a super-charged race car.
USA Hoops Romps
They still have to win when it counts to shake the taint from the Athens debacle, but it wasn't a bad start to demolish P.R. by 45.
That's an old-school, Dream Team-style whupping (especially sweet considering P.R. beat the U.S. by 19 in their last game, at the '04 Olympics).
The defense was the most impressive effort, and Carmelo Anthony continued his strong summer with a team-high 18. (See that, Larry Brown?)
Madden to Hall
While the totality of John Madden's coaching and broadcast career are certainly worthy of his Hall of Fame enshrinement this weekend, I'd put him in the Hall for his video-game identity alone.
For a generation of fans, "Madden" is a game first, a TV football analyst second, and -- distantly, remotely, vaguely -- a coach. It's incredible to think the game first came out for game consoles in 1990.
No "release day" for any other NFL-related product is as annually anticipated. Madden is the best-selling video game of all time; it's opening week is tracked like a movie opening.
Along with fantasy, Madden combined with "NFL Countdown" to form the holy trinity of football fandom. But I'd bet that for Madden fans, far more hours during the season are spent playing the game than actually watching football.
If the most recognizable name in pro football is "Madden," you can credit that to the game that bears his name. What could be more Hall-worthy?
Raiders-Eagles at Canton, Ohio: Two teams stuck on the wrong side of rebuilding.
I'd like a Jerry Porter cam: The Raiders WR wants out of Oakland; meanwhile, for receiver-depleted Philly, he'd be the No. 1 guy.
So here's an idea to spice up the exhibition-season opener: The two teams should make a mid-game trade involving Porter.
||CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
|WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...|
Ohio St: Ranked as preseason No. 1 by the coaches' poll|
Jose Reyes: Mets give star SS a 4Y/$23.25M deal extension
Santonio Holmes: Disorderly-conduct charge dropped (fined)
|... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'|
Rick Tocchet: Ex-cop will help prosecutors with case|
Amare: Dropped from Team USA travel roster
William & Mary: NCAA nixes appeal to keep logo at events
MLB Hit List
Maddux wins Dodgers debut: Pitches a no-hitter for six innings before a rain delay. The streaking Dodgers won their sixth in a row.
Lidle wins Yankees debut: It wasn't a no-hitter, but it was good enough (1R, 4H, 6 IP) for Lidle's fifth straight win.
Stat of the Day: Jake Westbrook became the first pitcher since 1988 to win while allowing 15 hits.
But way more impressive: Indians closer Jason Davis earned his first career save by holding a one-run lead while KO'ing Ortiz, Manny and Mirabelli.
(Maybe the Red Sox would have been more successful against Davis with a better-hitting catcher. Help is on the way: Javy Lopez is coming, a huge boost with Jason Varitek out for at least a month.)
Braves put Andruw Jones on waivers: Are they trying to sneak a post-deadline trade through? Can't believe he'd clear the list.
Royals sign top draftee: RHP Luke Hochevar joins A-Rod, Pat Burrell and Delmon Young as the only draft picks to go straight to major league deals.
"They are ugly uniforms," Astros manager Phil Garner said of the retro display by Houston (and San Diego). Doesn't he know that fans have embraced the old Astros and Padres unis as ugly-as-cool?
Conseco Hearts Mac
On its face, Jose Canseco endorsing Mark McGwire's Hall of Fame candidacy seems like the kiss of death.
But there hasn't been a more astute (or honest) analyst of MLB's steroid problem than Mac's Bash Brother. I'll chalk it up as a plus.
Big Ben says he's ready for the preseason opener, saying they'll have to "hold me back" from playing -- which is exactly what Bill Cowher should do. Why rush the rehab process?
T.O. misses practice Thursday with that NFL camp nemesis, the Hammy Strain. Not necessarily foreshadowing of an injury to come (certainly not as foreshadowed as his inevitable clash with Drew Bledsoe).
Is Philip Rivers ready for a breakout year? I'm nearly set to jump on the bandwagon after reading Seth Wickersham's glowing blog post about him.
Bob Stoops implemented the "Cover-Butt" defense, throwing Rhett Bomar under the bus and claiming the QB knew exactly what he was doing when he took the NCAA-unfriendly deal from the local car salesman.
But he was right on one thing: Oklahoma's NCAA compliance staff deserves kudos for turning Bomar in promptly. (You have to wonder if they knew it was going to come out eventually, but wanted to get ahead of it.)
Meanwhile, I'll bet coaches who vote in the preseason Top 25 wish they could have their ballot back; they listed OU as No. 5, which should have been listed with an asterisk that said, "Just wait until the NEXT one."
Larry Brown to NBDL
"Ludicrous" is what Brown's agent calls the head-coaching offer made to Brown from Colorado's NBDL franchise.
But is there a more appropriate place for Brown to try to apply his "Right Way" to influence the NBA?
Like him or not, Brown could single-handedly give the NBDL its credibility as the developmental linchpin of the NBA's future.
What makes the offer "ludicrous?" That it's the D-League? That it's Colorado? Not enough money? What's ludicrous is his knee-jerk rejection.
At his career's end-stage, Brown should be thinking about repairing his reputation, indelibly stained by the atrocious job he did coaching the Knicks.
The NBDL is a perfect rehab.
Bonds 715 Auction
Let's pick up the bidding highlights in the final 10 minutes:
2:50 ET: $170,000
2:53 ET: $200,000
2:57 ET: $210,000
2:58 ET: $210,300
2:59 ET: $220,100
Winning bid: $220,100
(Opening bid: $10,000)
Was that you, Greg Anderson?
NCAA Dumb Branding
"Division I-A and I-AA" were such simple, effective class designations for college football. But the I-AA schools got testy that they were labeled as somehow second-class (which, duh, they ARE).
So in a great example of good intentions being ruined by bad execution, the labels have been scrapped for "Football Bowl Subdivision" (I-A) and "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision" (I-AA).
The I-AA teams SWINDLED I-A: Now the I-AA name is infinitely cooler than the I-A name, not to mention a reminder of how I-AA has an actual championship playoff while I-A builds its on a myth and a prayer.
(No matter what the names, good luck to either side -- or the NCAA -- getting fans or the media to adopt the ridiculous new lingo.)
Britney's Big Night
Well, if you're near Newark, N.J., perhaps you'll want to check out Britney Spears Baby Safety Night, a fun (if outdated) gimmick that can only come from minor league baseball (in this case, the Newark Bears).
Maybe I'll bring Gabe: If I do, they say I get in for free (and, presumably, so does he). But if I don't drive to the stadium with him in my lap, do I still get the comped admission?
Justin Gatlin's controversial track coach banned by the USOC from its training centers and sites as part of its cheating crackdown.
|Today on ESPN.com|
|Page 2 Index|
|Funniest Sports Movies Ever|
|The perfect sports movie?|
|Top sports fan cult film?|
|Paul Newman's greatest role?|
|Bad News Bears|
|Ultimate kid-sports movie|
|White Men Can't Jump|
|First 15 minutes: Classic|
More Football Hall: I don't mean to overlook the induction of Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, Reggie White, Warren Moon and Rayfield Wright. (Plus Lesley Visser for the Rozelle media award.)|
Floyd Landis' lawyer is now claiming dehydration caused his increased testosterone level. It beats the "Blame the booze!" defense.
There aren't many more bizarre stories than the Champ Car driver seriously injured after hitting a deer that wandered onto the track. All the best for a full recovery.
NBA Offseason: Does the Wizards' free-agent signing of emotionally streaky G DeShawn Stevenson mean the Knicks will get to poach Jared Jeffries?
Did Jags owner Wayne Weaver dis presumptive new NFL commish Roger Goodell's candidacy in today's Washington Times? Maybe he's no sure thing.
Worst job in sports? OKLA's new starting QB is Paul Thompson. He was the OLD starting QB until his '05 season-opening dud, after which he was moved to WR.
Yet another reason why football coaches shouldn't be allowed to vote in the Top 25 rankings: Who was the IDIOT who gave Duke a single vote? Was that a joke? Ban him!