July 25, 2005
Lance Armstrong:
As usual, the Tour de France finish was anti-climactic. Doesn't it feel like it has been decided since Day 2? Regardless, Lance rules. Take today's poll.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Is the Tour de France over?

I don't mean "over" for 2005.

I mean: Over. Finished. Done.

The downside of Lance Armstrong's unprecedented success is that for fans in the U.S., the athlete became bigger than the sport.

When was the last time an athlete from such a lower-tier sport took over our consciousness like Lance? Never.
(See Friday's Quickie.)

On the flip side, he made cycling relevant. Must-follow, if not must-see. Don't buy the cynicism from the haters. Lance updates were a daily fixture among ESPN.com's most popular stories.

So what next for the sport?

I just hope the champagne tasted good on Sunday, because cycling is in for nothing less than the worst hangover that any minor sport has had in the ESPN Era.

(Even NHL is back on the radar. Cycling's drop-off will make the NHL seem popular at its low point.)

Without Lance, the sport isn't the same. Will fans still care? As the French themselves might put it: Non!

Without Lance, cycling is just history.

MLB Trade Mania
A.J. Burnett Watch:
All the would-be trading partners (White Sox? Red Sox? O's? Are the O's even still in it?) must have felt like Harry Potter feels about Ginny Weasley after Burnett's W on Sunday (7 IP, 0 ER). He even hit a HR.

Meanwhile, when a setup LHP (Twins' J.C. Romero) is the next-best trade "name," it's a slow season. Deadline is Sunday at 4 ET.

More: Padres 1B Phil Nevin reportedly set to waive no-trade clause to head to Baltimore for disappointing SP Sidney Ponson. But we've heard trade rumors before out of Balto, haven't we? (via Wash. Post)

ALCS Preview?
What did fans learn about the larger picture (say: October) from the weekend series split between the White Sox and Red Sox, the best two teams in the AL?

Rich Hill: Cubs P phenom will start today for Kerry Wood
Kurt Busch: 2nd W of season (NASCAR Penn 500 at Pocono)
76ers: Make 6y deal w/ C Samuel "Double-Single" Dalembert
Dontrelle Willis: 3 straight Ls; 2nd-half slump clockwork
Padres: Swept in Philly, 0-6 on road trip, 7-G L streak
New NHL logo: Orange with sans serif font was a classic
Sox have no fear. (Wait, that doesn't help. I mean Chicago has no fear of Boston. Huge, because the mystique is half the battle.)

ChiSox are legit contenders. After losing 2 of 3 to Detroit heading into Boston series, a fold was expected. Split bolsters first half as no fluke.

Both teams could use Burnett. But are they willing to give up top prospects to get him? (See Gammons' latest via Q It Up.)

NFL Camping
Today's camp opening:

Falcons (Flowery Branch, Ga.)
Key plotline: Vick's progress

Recap of weekend camping:

Dolphins: Ricky arrived Sunday, and reportedly there will be a news conference today after practice. Now that'll be interesting.

Bears: Wow, Rex Grossman didn't get hurt. Every day he doesn't, the season can be considered a success.

Pats: Rookies start speed testing. Frankly, whatever the Genius named Belichick does should be the gold standar for the rest of the league.

Pittsburgh: New Hotness
If Detroit was home to a sports Renaissance in 2005, is Pittsburgh next in 2006? Consider:

Penguins win the rights to the hottest phenom in hockey.
Key star: Sidney Crosby

Steelers mania hot as ever,
coming off AFC title game.
Key star: Big Ben R'berger

Pirates speculated as Mark
Cuban's next hot investment.
Key star: Rookie SP Zach Duke

And the '06 MLB All-Star Game
will be in Pittsburgh, too!

L. Brown Watch
Met with Knicks owner Dolan this weekend. Still, no word yet. Next: Dinner with Isiah and incumbent coach Herb Williams.

Because apparently "doing it the right way" includes looking in the eye of the guy you're going to replace and saying, "You gonna finish that?"

50-in-50: Rhode Island
Impressions of Rhode Island:

Providence: Fans still feasting off 1987 Final Four run. They should: Friars were one of the most memorable Cinderellas ever.

Red Sox Nation satellite: If anything, presence of AAA Pawtucket makes fans from RI even more frenzied.

Vote Best of R. Island here!

Struggle in 14-inn L to Astros. In a personal "50-in-50"-style moment, I went to my first D.C. game on Sunday. Nats' O is as ugly as the stadium.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie live!
Shanoff on Lance
Top Athletes, ESPN Era
Michael Jordan
I know: What a cop-out...
Lance Armstrong
Key: *Relative* to sport
Michael Phelps
Top Olympian of last 25?
Michael Vick
Redefining quarterback
Eric Davis
Hard to say "Barry Bonds"

A's still sizzling: Tied with Twins for AL wild-card lead after sweeping the pretender Rangers and winning 26th in last 32 games.

Pacers outlast Cavs, win battle for star Euro-PG Sarunas Jasikevicius, who should supplant incumbent Indiana starter Jamaal Tinsley by April.

"Law-lapalooza" Tour: Ex-Pats DB Ty Law to continue working out for whoever might have him. Latest: Lions, who could certainly use the help on D.

U.S. Soccer wins CONCACAF Gold Cup, which sounds more like a specialty drink from Starbucks than a soccer title.

More NBA Moves: Bonzi Wells heads to Sacramento in trade with Griz for one of my all-time underrated, Bobby Jackson; Magic snag ex-Heat PG Keyon Dooling

Happy 41st birthday, Barry Bonds.

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