Location:Los Angeles, CA
Hi everyone! I'm an actor, writer, and 5-time "Jeopardy!" champion. As a Reading, PA native, I'm still a Phillies fan, but my biggest rooting interest is with my alma mater - the North Carolina Tar Heels. Please visit this site again and tell your friends about it! Yes, even Duke fans. Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Florida Secures Basketball Commitments From Sampras & Agassi Kids
Gator fans are still celebrating after Florida’s 73-57 thumping of UCLA in last night’s national title game. Joakim Noah is literally the big man on campus after earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors. Coach Billy Donovan certainly appreciates the impact made by the son of a tennis star. Therefore, Donovan has secured commitments from four-year-old Jaden Agassi, three-year-old Christian Sampras, and eight-month-old Ryan Sampras.
Fairly unknown before this season, Joakim Noah is now the object of desire for all NBA general managers. Noah had 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in the championship game and totaled a record 29 blocks during the tournament. The performance was on par with that of his father, Yannick Noah, in winning the 1983 French Open. Roland Garros Stadium has been hallowed ground for the family ever since then. In fact, part of Donovan’s recruiting pitch was in convincing Joakim that the Gators played their home games on clay.
Now Joakim has influenced Donovan’s recruiting strategy in another way. Seeing how Noah has led the program to unprecedented heights, the coach decided to continue targeting the offspring of tennis standouts. “We won a championship with Joakim, and his dad won one stinkin’ Grand Slam singles title,” remarked Donovan. “Jaden’s dad is Andre Agassi, and his mom is Steffi Graf. 30 Grand Slam singles titles between them – we’re talkin’ dynasty, baby!”
The Sampras children only add to the winning legacy. Pete Sampras captured a men’s record 14 Grand Slam singles titles. His sister is the head coach of the UCLA women’s tennis team, so many expected his children to become Bruins. However, once again Donovan got the best of UCLA. Known as one of the most tireless recruiters in the coaching profession, the Florida leader has raised the standard in pursuing prospects early. No one is better at landing pre-kindergarten blue-chippers.
However, this activity does carry enormous risk. Top-flight programs often have to depend on youthful hoopsters these days. However, players referred to as young are usually 19, not 4. Ryan Sampras cannot even walk yet, so teaching him the principles of man-to-man defense could be problematic. He also will make practices less efficient, as assistant coaches will need to add diaper-changing to their duties. However, if he performs well in free-throw shooting drills, the staff will reward Ryan by allowing him to play with their keys.
Donovan downplays the risk, noting that next year’s team will be an experienced unit. Despite his dominance in the tournament, many observers expect Noah to return. If he and teammates Corey Brewer and Al Horford do put the NBA on hold for another season, the Gators will return their entire starting lineup. Therefore, the Sampras and Agassi children can be free of much pressure as they gradually accumulate more playing time. Ryan Sampras will likely be redshirted, so he will be a seasoned two-year-old when he takes the court in 2007.
One group that will not be skeptical is Donovan’s fellow SEC coaches. This season LSU proved that it could excel in league play with a Big Baby. The Tigers only had one baby and still reached the Final Four. Florida will have three, so the sky is the limit for the Gators. Also, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl is proof that even if you’re unable to dress yourself, you can still succeed in the SEC.
The Sampras and Agassi children will surely have a unique presence in college basketball. However, you won’t be able to tell them apart from other players when they get whistled for fouls. They’ll cry and throw a tantrum – just like everyone else.
07-17-2006, 09:45 PM
July 15th, 2006
Pistol Pete: Playing Russian Roulette with Reputation
by Lynn Berenbaum
What do you do when you’re 34 years old, retired with a wife and kids, and have earned more than $43 million in your career?
You bottle your boredom and go back to work part-time.
Three years after ending his illustrious career with his fifth U.S. Open victory, Pete Sampras turned his attention back to tennis. Before agreeing in February to play seven World Team Tennis (WTT) matches, Sampras had only played one competitive match since his career ended at the 2002 U.S. Open. His return to semi-competition was marked by a heavily promoted USTA exhibition match in April against Robby Ginepri, and streamed live on the Interweb. Fans witnessed a limping Sampras, huffing and puffing, and looking defeated at times by a younger player who took pride in tiring out his older opponent. He appeared as a man with the face and demeanor of Sampras, with the serve and the strokes that resembled the man known as ‘Pistol Pete’, without the movement to match.
He’s competing in seven WTT matches over the course of the summer for the Newport Beach Breakers. He’ll also play a few exhibition matches, including a best-of-three set exhibition against former rival Jim Courier on August 7th at the JPMorgan Chase Open.
No one should count on seeing the player who won a men’s record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and he even admits he’s far from his peak. Sampras lost his singles match Monday against world No. 211 John Paul Fruttero of the St. Louis Aces, but won his doubles match. On Wednesday
Sampras played the Sacramento Capitals and lost 5-2 to Jesuit High School alumnus Sam Warburg, who idolized Sampras growing up. In doubles, he and Rick Leach lost 5-2 to Warburg and Mark Knowles.
Earlier in the day the King of Swing held a small press conference in the furniture department of the local Macy’s department store. This isn’t surprising given that the event is held at the Allstate Stadium, located in the sunny parking lot of the Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento.
Instead of playing and working out every day for more than six hours like he did during his career, Sampras’ schedule now consists of hitting three or four days a week and spending a few hours in the gym. Although he’s not playing as well as he’d like and won’t commit to anything beyond this summer, he says that he is enjoying playing WTT and being in the limelight again.
In his biggest press avail since his quasi-return, a call with reporters last week, Sampras said he considers himself among the top five players of all time. The others? Rod Laver, Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl.
And no, he wasn’t shy with his praise of Roger Federer:
Well, I think when I look at Roger, I mean, I’m a fan. I mean, I’m a fan of how he plays, what he’s about, just the fact that I think he’s a class — I don’t know him personally, but seems like he’s a class guy on and off the court. He’s fun to watch. Just his athletic ability, what he’s able to do on the run. I think he can and will break every tennis record out there.
I just think he’s the only really great player I see playing. I think Nadal is really good, shows — and he’s a great player, but I just think there’s less of him. Today I think Roger is two, three levels above the rest. The fact that he seems like he’s even getting better. You combine all that, I don’t really see anyone threatening the No. 1 ranking. I think he’s just too consistent and too good and has a fear factor in everyone else that I had at times, but I think he has it even more.
About a year ago, many pegged Federer as a threat to surpass Sampras’ career totals and questioned the presence of rivals to Federer’s game. It’s impossible to think of a peak Sampras playing Fed-man. Though Sampras had Andre Agassi to push him, Agassi announced before Wimbledon that he’ll retire after the U.S. Open.
When Sampras was asked to speak about his chief rival’s career, he reflected on how he was forced to elevate his game with Agassi there. “When he had his moments playing so well, in the finals at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, I played some of my best tennis,” Sampras said. “I think we, as a rivalry, hit mainstream sports fans that might not be tennis fans, but maybe tuned into the match… I’ve always said he’s made me a better player, made me add some things to my game that against other guys I could get away with. You know, he’s always going to be the one guy, when people ask me who my rival was, he’s the one. ”
Nearly four years since his last Grand Slam match, Sampras still has fond memories.
“I miss [Wimbledon],” he said. “I’m just so familiar with that feeling of playing there, the court, just the daily life at Wimbledon. I’ll miss it at 34, 44, 54. So familiar with the place, so many good memories, that I think these are the two weeks that I really do miss the sport. And I miss the Open and the rest, but I think these two are just — I was so successful, so many good memories there, I definitely miss it.”
Yes, that seems obvious Mr. Sampras. Still, asked if he would return to the ATP Tour, Sampras didn’t hesitate with a resounding, “No.”
Instead, he’ll be doing an appearance at a mall or a furniture store, playing in a parking lot in an obscure league, a long way from his glory days of big prizes and fawning attention. And hopefully no one will have the bad taste to ask him, “Didn’t you use to be Pete Sampras?”
07-19-2006, 12:33 AM
Foes and friends
It was a memory jolt watching Pete Sampras warm up and then play doubles Monday night with Ramon Delgado in a World Team Tennis match at Newport Beach, Calif.
Delgado dealt Sampras one of his more devastating French Open losses in 1998, beating him in straight sets in the second round.
“I was thinking about that too,” said their Newport Beach Breakers teammate Rick Leach during the warmup session.
And so was Sampras: “Yeah, he took me down there.”
07-25-2006, 12:08 AM
Monday July 24, 2006
Golf Opinion :: Nick Mockford
Emotion illustrates it's more than a game
After Tiger Woods' emotional victory at Hoylake in the 2006 British open, Nick Mockford explores the notion that sport really is more than just a game.
I sat up until the early hours of this morning watching the final round of the British Open golf, and despite my bleary eyes when I arose later, I am glad I did.
Watching Tiger Woods produce yet another machine-like final round in a major, and then collapse into the arms of his caddie Steve Williams, was a very humbling and powerful scene. It represented the other side of sport, the emotional side that comes from dedicating a lifetime to a single activity.
I'm not sure whether Eddie McGuire and the Nine network would have dipped into this barrel of thought when coining the famous phrase "It's more than a game", but they don't know just how right they were.
Of course, golf isn't everyone's cup of tea. A lot of people play it, sure, but watching it? It can be very boring at times, even an avid golf viewer like myself will attest to that. Staying up past three in the morning on a Sunday night to watch a result that seemed inevitable beforehand anyway probably isn't desirable to most, but it was worth it just to see Tiger's tears at the end.
Sobbing uncontrollably as he clutched Williams, and then wife Elin, the vision really hit home the fact that, while sport means a lot to the diehard fans who follow every move, it means just as much to those directly involved. There wasn't a dry eye on the course as Woods spoke of how he wished his father, who passed away only two months beforehand, could have witnessed the victory.
Not because most of us know the devastating feeling of losing a loved one, but because emotion is contagious. We all know the power of laughter on others, but the power of tears is just as strong. I had a tear in my eye, as I'm sure many other Australians watching the telecast did as well; not only for Woods, but for brave runner-up Chris DiMarco too, who himself lost his mother recently.
You may ask, why was it so important for his father to witness this victory? Woods' two stroke win took him past Walter Hagen and into second place on his own with 11 major titles, seven fewer than The Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus. His dad had witnessed the ten previous, including his first in 1997 at Augusta, and a very emotional 2005 British Open victory at St Andrews. Surely that's more than enough for one proud father to take in.
However, it really underlines just how much work goes into each and every tournament, let alone just the majors. Every stroke over the four days is a culmination of years and years of hard work, and for Tiger Woods, that means years and years of inspiration from his father, who guided him through the game from an early age. The unpredictability of professional sport is such that any year, day or single moment could be the last.
I loathe mentioning the recent World Cup, as the wounds of defeat are still very fresh and very open, but one similar scene stood out after the devastating loss to Italy in the second round.
Midfielder Jason Culina cut an unconsolable figure in the middle of the pitch, clutching onto coach Guus Hiddink like he would never let go as the tears flowed down his cheeks. This was a different kind of emotion; not the kind that comes with the relief of winning, but one that comes with the utter heartbreak of losing. The biggest stage in the world, all the yards put in to get there, and it's snatched away in a single moment.
We all cried with Pete Sampras when he broke down on court all those years ago against Jim Courier in the epic 1995 Australian Open quarter final, in the knowledge that his coach Tim Gullikson was gravely ill. We shared Roger Federer's utter joy earlier this year in the same event, as he beat the lovable Marcos Baghdatis in the final, and choked on tears as he tried to give his winners speech. Many have mocked the image of Paul Licuria and Mick Malthouse crying after Collingwood's Grand Final loss in 2003, but only a true heart of stone would be devoid of any sympathy.
In a world where so much security is needed and the gap between professional athletes and their devoted fans can often seem like the Grand Canyon, it is human moments like these that prove we are all and one.
As a Kangaroos supporter, I remember the day last September when Leigh Colbert retired. He trudged off the ground after a humiliating defeat at the hands of Port Adelaide, threw his boots away and ackowledged the crowd, as his forlorn teammates walked behind him, with pained expressions all around summing up the afternoon.
Apparently, Colbert was inconsolable in the rooms after the game. Not because of the loss, but because something that had consumed his life for so long was over. With his injury history, football had been something that had brought him as much frustration as joy, but nevertheless, it was a life passion that ended on that gloomy afternoon. All the hard work, sweat and toil was no more, and that is enough to break even the strongest man down.
Sport isn't everything in life, and not many would suggest otherwise, but the emotional side of it proves that it is so much more than just a something to be enjoyed on weekends. While a young student may put in years of study to be accepted into law at a major University, a young athlete will be putting in those same years to be drafted.
Winning a big case for the eleventh time may be just as satisfying, if not more so, than winning a first case, and it's the same for Tiger Woods. The more he pushes himself, the more each victory means, hence the outpouring of emotion early this morning in Liverpool. There are times he seems to be on a different planet, but it's instances like this which show just how human he, along with every other professional athlete, really is.
Crocodile tears? Not likely, Tiger tears are as genuine as any, and it proves that sport is more than just a game.
07-25-2006, 07:49 PM
If Zidane had cried, we’d have loved him more
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 22:44 IST
It’s a man thing, sport. Women who play the games always get a bit of schlock for being too mannish, or not girlie enough. Even Jackie Joyner-Kersee, for all her enormous long painted fingernails and fashion chutzpah, had the muscled arms and legs of an athlete.
Which is why poor Amelie Mauresmo is insultingly called a man in disguise and that third rate tennis player Anna Kournikova got so much good press.
But what makes a sporty man, then? Muscles, yes. Skill? Perhaps. Strength, definitely. But more than that, as we are now finding out, it’s heart. Zinedane Zidane’s breath-stopping head butt in the World Cup arena was the act of a man who felt more than calculated.
So we felt it too. If he’d cried, we’d have loved him more. Tiger Woods wept copiously after he won the British Open on Sunday.
His father had recently died of cancer; he wasn’t there to his see his son’s (continuing) success.
Woods, otherwise known for being deadpan and undemonstrative, made up for all that on Sunday. His elation at having won was submerged by his grief for his father. And he wasn’t ashamed to show it either.
Roger Federer blubbed his way through his acceptance speech after winning the Australian Open in January. He didn’t cry when he lost to Rafael Nadal four times this year and he didn’t cry when he won Wimbledon.
So maybe it was because the greatest player of all time, everyone’s hero, the incomparable Rod Laver, had handed him the award. Federer too is famous for being calm and composed on court, leading sports writers to speculate on whether he is human or some kind of a Swiss engineered robot. Well, apparently robots cry too.
The most endearing breakdown of all could be Pete Sampras during the 1995 quarter finals in the Australian Open against Jim Courier. He served an ace. He bawled. He hit a winner.
He bawled more. The tears were for his coach Tim Gullikson, who was very ill. He won that game, too with some sublime Sampras-style tennis. (And lost the final to Andre Agassi.)
Football players shed ‘em tears all the time, of course. The very nature of the sport makes them better actors than most too. So David Beckham is not afraid of telling us he wears his wife’s panties and he cries quite easily too.
He’s a man, even if he’s a wee bit metrosexual (isn’t that kind of last century now?). Unlike other sportsmen, though, footballers cry when they lose, not only when they win.
But the crown for the weepies has to go to Kapil Dev. And not for anything that happened on the field either.
It was during a TV interview and he felt his honour had been sullied. He cried his eyes out; our eyes popped out. Still, it was sadda Kapil. He’s a man too.
Does there have to be a moral? Just that men can let it all hang out and still be men.
They don’t have to shave their chests, wear lacy panties or wax their legs. Just be themselves and great at what they do and the fans will love ‘em for their manliness. Beckham… naah, you can keep him. I go with the rest.