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I was on vacation last week and fell way behind on my sports news. For example, when I left, way back on July 1, the Kansas City Royals were the object of ridicule and without a single major league caliber player. But upon my return they are the best team in baseball and boast the greatest pitcher in the sport: Mark Redman, All-Star extraordinaire.
And it turns out the Royals' emergence into the heady territory of just 25 games below .500 wasn't the only thing I missed last week. There were major stories in pretty much every sport.
So please indulge my efforts to become fully immersed in sportsdom again by taking a look back with me at the top stories from the past week.
(Oh, and my vacation was fine, thanks for asking. And guess who was in the same beach town as me last week? You're not guessing. Well, it was Rafael Palmeiro. For real. And, to make a long story short, I came home this weekend with a tan, 30 extra pounds of muscle and a deliciously tacky mustache. Thanks, Raffy!)
Patient Bulls take nine years to find a replacement for Dennis Rodman.
Pistons star Ben Wallace has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bulls. Some say giving such big money to a player who will be in his mid-30s by the end of the deal is foolish. And I'd agree: Wallace is probably on the downside of his playing career. But think how exciting it will be for Bulls fans to watch someone every night whose hair will probably look like this by the end of the contract. Outstanding. In my opinion, there's nothing that even remotely rivals the awesomeness of a receding afro. Just ask Billy Crystal. It's the only thing that's been remotely funny about him in a good decade or so.
Red Wings lose a legend and major Scrabble points.
Hockey legend Steve Yzerman retired from the Detroit Red Wings last week, ending one of the greatest careers in NHL history. The longtime Red Wings captain won many awards during his career, including the Lester B. Pearson Award as regular season MVP, the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs, the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward, and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to the sport. But perhaps the biggest credit to Yzerman is that he never won the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play, which is kind of the NHL's way of designating its biggest wuss.
Michelle Wie manages to not choke in the playoff at the U.S. Women's Open.
Of course, she didn't choke in last Monday's playoff because she didn't make it into the playoff. But Wie, who is so ready to compete on the PGA Tour that she can't be bothered to win even a single LPGA event, did finish tied for third and, best of all, managed not to lose to a single male player in the process. Well done, Michelle!
Kobayashi proves again that he can really handle a wiener.
Japanese competitive eating dynamo Takeru Kobayashi won his sixth straight Nathan's Fourth of July International Hot Dog contest, downing a record 53 3/4 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. And if you don't think 53-plus hot dogs is a lot, think of it another way. In 12 minutes Kobayashi ingested:
• some 115 pig snouts
• 200 knuckles
• 75 beaks • and 1/10 of an ounce of Grade A pork loin that accidentally got mixed in with the snouts, knuckles and beaks
Jose Canseco returns, but true freak show connoisseurs wonder: "Whither Ozzie?"
Jose Canseco returned to competitive baseball last week by joining the independent Golden Baseball League. And following his signing, he immediately accused the Golden Baseball League of turning a blind eye to steroid abusers in order to make money. Or at least he should have. You know, for non-hypocrisy's sake.
Manny Ramirez hates democracy.
Manny Ramirez was the leading All-Star vote-getter in the American League but announced he will not make the trip to Pittsburgh for this week's festivities because of injury -- even though he's played in every game up until the break, including a 19-inning, eight at-bat game on Sunday. So I would be tempted to add being an ungrateful, insincere pansy to the list of what falls under "Manny being Manny," but I'm more intrigued by AL manager Ozzie Guillen selecting Magglio Ordonez as Ramirez's replacement. A year ago Guillen said of Ordonez: "He's a piece of [expletive]. He's another Venezuelan [expletive]. [Expletive] him. He thinks he's got an enemy? No, he's got a big one. He knows I can [expletive] him over in a lot of different ways. He better shut the [expletive] up and just play for the Detroit Tigers." And then a year later Guillen puts Ordonez on the All-Star team. Interesting. This means there's a chance Guillen and Jay Mariotti could kiss and make up. Although Guillen might find that to be a bit too gay for his liking. Or not. Perhaps Guillen's frequent homophobic words come from a confused place deep inside him.
"Get Fondled by the Mascot Night" not as popular as hoped.
A report surfaced last week that a man who played the mascot for a minor league baseball team in South Carolina was arrested for reportedly fondling a female fan. The man who plays the mascot -- a giant frog named Reedy Rip'It -- has refused to comment on the story per the advice of his attorney. I figure the guy is just some jerk who deserves jail time, but there's always two sides to every story. Like, for instance, maybe since this guy is a frog he was looking to kiss some beautiful woman so he could change back into a prince. And, because he didn't want to just go up and kiss someone without permission, he tried to be polite and begin with a bit of foreplay. Hence, the fondling. But this callous woman showed no compassion for the plight of a man trapped inside a frog body making just more than minimum wage to humiliate himself every night in front of a few thousand people. Yep, that's probably what really happened. I should be an attorney.
Barry Bonds' trainer is a modern-day Nelson Mandela. If Mandela was a 'roided-out moron.
Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' personal trainer, was held in contempt of court and jailed last week for refusing to testify to the federal grand jury investigating Bonds for perjury. But Anderson shouldn't worry too much about going to prison. I'm sure he'll be welcomed with open arms. That fancy soul patch of his will feel real nice on his fellow inmates' skin.
LeBron James gets $80 million, which is $20 million for each of The LeBrons.
After a week of suspense, LeBron James agreed to Cleveland's contract extension offer, reportedly ranging anywhere from three to five years and $60 million-$80 million. James was silent on the deal for a week, of course, because he was pondering a 30-year, $90 jabillion deal from the Knicks, which fell through when New York general manager Isiah Thomas was informed that James is not an unrestricted free agent, that the Knicks have no cap room and that "jabillion" is not a real number.
Federer and Mauresmo go together like strawberries and cream. Or Tim Henman and losing.
In a bit of Australian Open deja vu, Roger Federer and Amelie Mauresmo won Wimbledon singles titles over the weekend, but then you already knew that. In fact, you know all the details of every game, point and set of each championship match because with how popular tennis is in the U.S. right now, you made it a point to get up early on back-to-back weekend mornings to watch yourself some Wimbledon action. I know I did.
A relaxing moment became the right moment for Trevor Immelman.
South African Trevor Immelman notched his first career PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the Cialis Western Open. Next year the Western Open, which is/was the second-oldest tournament in the U.S., will get a new name and become the BMW Championship -- meaning the PGA Tour has swapped one penis enhancement product, Cialis, for another, BMW.
One game changes everything: Zinedine Zidane is my new hero.
Congratulations to Italy on winning the World Cup, but I think the Azzurri know they're not the best in the world. That title, of course, goes to the U.S. -- the only country the Italians were unable to beat, and that was with the Americans playing a man down for a good portion of the match. So anytime you want to prove you can beat us, Italy, bring it on. But this time let's play American football, or baseball or basketball. (Although you might beat us at basketball, so scratch that one.) Just as long as it's not soccer, because that first match was probably a fluke and you'd likely crush us in a rematch.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Fantasy Sports Monthly, and has written for The Onion and Cracked.