August 23, 2004
Justin Gatlin:
There may not be a title as impressive in sports as "World's Fastest Man," and with 100m gold, the lively Gatlin earns the label.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
SOFTBALL.  RULES.

An Olympic "zero" score was never so much fun.

The women of USA Softball were more dominant than Michael Phelps and more steel-willed than Carly Patterson and Paul Hamm combined.

No team is supposed to win like this: Throwing blanks across the board, overpowering all comers en route to gold. It's almost unfair, if it wasn't so fascinating to watch.

It's the pitching, stupid: When all you see is the score line, nothing makes you go "Oh!" like all those Oh's. When you actually see the hurlers, you understand why the spectacle makes the sport one of the most promising "growth" sports in the country.

So what next? Hype-enhancing tours versus men's teams? A legit U.S. pro women's league? Can a sport with appeal based on no scoring succeed?

Here's one radical idea: Turn the guys' Home Run Derby on its head and create a one-on-one exhibition that showcases the pitchers. (You wouldn't tune in for a "Jennie Finch vs. Crystl Bustos" one-on-one showdown? More intriguing than Big Unit vs. Bonds.)

Team Shutout is so telegenic, for now they could simply barnstorm, Globetrotters-style, displaying the must-see skills that have made them the most entertaining spectacle of the Olympics.

Hoops Hysteria
Lithuanian for "schooled?" "Sarunas Jasekevicius." What should scare the U.S. is that is shot better from the outside against Lithuania than it had all tournament (except for Stephon Marbury), which was every jingoistic analyst's excuse, and they still lost.

Heading into this week's knockout medal round (likely more "knock-out" than "medal"), Larry Brown's PT pattern and inability to teach the players how to guard the international 3-pointer remains confounding.

Yankees Stink
"Fouls to give" is Joe Torre's metaphor for New York's AL East cushion. Based on the way his pitching is getting shelled, the "Hack-a-Yankee" excuse might not be far behind.

Something's foul, all right: New York's 10.5-game cushion on August 15 is merely 5.5 a week later, because they have lost 6 of 7, while the Red Sox won six straight.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Ichiro: On pace for 262 hits; MLB record is 257 (George Sisler)
Stewart Cink: Nothing validates Ryder-ness like NEC title
U.S. rowing 8s: Men (gold), women (silver) weekend stunner
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Svetlana Khorkina: AKA "Svetlana Sore-losa"; get over it
Gail Devers: Sadly, stumbles out of gates in 100m hurdles
Stacy Dragila: U.S. pole-vault star flops before medal round
 
Colorado Scandal
Recruiting and hookers, the "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" of college football: If this Colorado football indictment came down last spring, Gary Barnett would be gone; now, it might be too late for Colorado to fire him.

NFL: MNF!
Rams at Chiefs: The common thread between tonight's two coaches is not that Martz once worked under Vermeil; it's that both couldn't have coached worse when their seasons ended in the playoffs. "Past their primes" comes to mind. (8 p.m. ET, ABC)

Meanwhile, what we learned this weekend:

Forget Kellen Winslow: The Browns' top impact player will be RB Lee Suggs (6/63, 2 TD) ...

The Bengals can put up points (and the Pats will allow them) ...

Tony Romo might be the Cowboys' best win-now QB ...

Willis McGahee might think too much of himself, but he should be starting in Buffalo.

Gym Controversy
Here's the only question: If Paul Hamm won the bronze under the same circumstances, does anyone doubt that he would have gotten a "co-gold" days ago?

Don't punish the poor Korean just because he's not American: He deserves the award he earned. Hamm (and his fans) should be comfortable sharing it with him.

Olympic Dope Scandal
As much a part of the Olympic spirit as the medal ceremony and the theme music ... here comes the dope-testing-related medal-stripping! First up: Shot put (Russian women) and weightlifting (Greek men) ... because you'd never suspect cheating in those events.

Today's Poll
Today's question is inspired by today's take by Caple about shifting landscape of Olympic rooting interests. But the question is a little more subversive:

Even in just a small sick way, are you rooting against the U.S. hoops team? With the understanding that no one is watching how you vote, be honest.

(By the way, it will be stunning if the "Yes"/"Sort of" number even breaks the one or two percent mark, so check back.)

Stephon Marbury:
If one U.S. hoops player could be made the goat, it's Marbury, who has managed to combine inept defensive skills with terrible shooting.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: 24-hour poker marathon
Caple: No cheering for Team USA
NFL training camp
 
Wheaties Watch
Women's softball
Team Shutout wins gold
 
Michael Phelps
Best medal one not swum
 
Carly Patterson
Still USA's golden girl
 
Lauryn Williams
100m silver just a taste
 
Paul Hamm
Share the gold ...
 

G'bye, Mike Phelps (at least til 2008): His most impressive swim was the one he didn't make, giving up his spot in 4x100 medley relay final...

Bonds Watch: Hits No. 693 (35th this season), and if every team pitched to him like the Mets did, he'd top Aaron by end of season ...

The Cards are so loaded, it's not IF they'll win, but HOW. Sunday: Renteria smacks 5 RBI, Walker 2nd grand slam in 5 days ...

Must-watch early-week MLB series: Twins at Rangers (playoff preview?), with my man Jo Santana vs. overrated Kenny Rogers ...

Greg Biffle won Sunday's NASCAR, but wait two more weeks for "Playoff Factor" to accelerate the sport like you've never seen ...

Stop the presses: An NFL win-win trade! Dolphins get must-need help at WR (Booker); Bears get must-need help for D (Ogunleye) ...

If Darren Sharper is annoyed with the NFL's new DB-unfriendly rules now, just wait until the regular season's Wide eyes ...



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