When The Underdog Wins….
Celebrating The Magnificence of Not Only Sports, But Upsets Around The World

Sep
08

Apparently, this Belichick guy really does know what he’s doing.

And that knowledge may be tested more than ever before in the coming weeks.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick left many around the football world scratching their heads when he stuck with Matt Cassel as his backup quarterback despite his struggles throughout the preseason. No one in New England wanted to see that decision put to the test, but that’s exactly what happened when reigning league MVP Tom Brady went down clutching his left knee midway through the first quarter of Sunday’s season-opener against Kansas City.

Suddenly Cassel, who hadn’t started a game that counted since high school, was thrust into the most unenviable of positions.

“This is something I’ve been preparing for a long time,” said Cassel, who responded to the challenge by completing 13-of-18 passes for 152 yards and a TD without a turnover as New England held on for a 17-10 win. “It’s not something that we expected to come up on the opening day.

“As a quarterback you have to deal with adversity and I think through adversity comes advancement.”

Cassel certainly faced some adversity when he stepped on the field. He had to replace Brady, who limped into the locker room and never emerged again. And because Randy Moss fumbled the ball on the play Brady’s knee was rolled up by a hit from Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard, Cassel didn’t get to take the reins on offense until the Pats had been pinned at their own 2 by a punt.

After two Sammy Morris runs both barely avoided safeties, Cassel’s first pass attempt came from his own end zone on third-and-11. Cassel calmly stood in the pocket and dropped a perfect strike over KC cornerback Patrick Surtain into the waiting arms of Moss for a 51-yard strike.

“I thought that was a big play coming off the goal line,” Belichick said. “That was right in front of me so I got a good look at that one. He made a great throw on that coming out of the end zone.”

Things weren’t exactly all right again in Patriots Nation. But at least there was a sense that all might not be lost after all.

“Unfortunately we lost Brady during the course of the game,” said cornerback Deltha O’Neal. “That’s a shocker for us, but 16 (Cassel) did a hell of a job and we fed off his energy to keep the momentum on our side.”

Cassel had failed to lead the Pats to a single touchdown in 17 preseason possessions, but he was a perfect 4-of-4 for 63 yards as he drove New England 98 yards for the game’s first score. He capped that himself as he stepped up in the pocket and found Moss across the back of the end zone on third-and-8 from the 10.

Cassel was a perfect 4-of-4 again on an 80-yard drive in the third quarter that Morris capped with a 5-yard run to make it 14-3, but there were still more challenges ahead.

Kansas City had to turn to its own backup QB, as former Patriot Damon Huard came on for starter Brodie Croyle, who left with a separated right shoulder. Huard was 4-of-4 himself on his first drive, hitting Dwayne Bowe for a 13-yard scoring strike over Ellis Hobbs to make it 14-10 with 13:06 left in the fourth.

Stephen Gostkowski padded the lead with a 37-yard field goal after Hobbs redeemed himself with an interception

“That’s the life of a DB, you can’t worry about that,” said Hobbs, who also sacked Huard on a corner blitz and returned a kick 51 yards. “You go and make the plays and as long as at the end of the day you’re making more positive than negative, you know it’s a good day at the office.”

But the day’s work was far from done for Hobbs and the rest of the defense. Huard connected with Devard Darling for a 68-yard pickup with 53 seconds left, with only a game-saving tackle by O’Neal keeping the Chiefs from scoring the tying TD.

“They called the right play on the wrong defense,” said O’Neal, a nine-year veteran signed by New England this week after being released by the Bengals. “(Darling) made a good play. Hats off to him. I was just thinking, ‘Get him down, so we don’t have to go into overtime. Get him down, just get him down.’ Once you get him down, you’ve got four downs to stop them.”

KC still had those four cracks from the 5 to pull even, but couldn’t get any closer as New England escaped with the win after O’Neal broke up a fourth-and-goal pass intended for Bowe.

“That’s just gut-checking,” said O’Neal. “It’s the last play, fourth down. You know they’re gonna pass it. You know nine times out of 10 it’s either going to go to (tight end Tony) Gonzalez or to 82 (Bowe) and 82 was on my side, so in my head I’m thinking, ‘The ball is coming to me. I’ve got to play my position.”

The Pats will have plenty more gut-checks to come if Brady is sidelined for any length of time.

“As sad as it is, the train has to continue to move on,” said Hobbs. “You saw a guy come in today that’s been taking a lot of heat come in there and do is thing. And we’re not going to shy away from letting 1-6 (Cassel) take us all the way, wherever that is, we’re riding his shoulders.”

That’s not quite as terrifying a proposition as it would have been before Sunday’s surprise showing by Cassel. Still, there’s certainly not a lot of comfort in thinking about how far this team can go without Brady at the helm.

Sep
07

The Knicks have a trade proposal on the table with the Memphis Grizzlies that would dump Zach Randolph and his hefty contract in exchange for Darko Milicic and Marko Jaric.

President of basketball operations Donnie Walsh has been trying to move Randolph to free up some salary cap room for the Knicks.

New York had the highest team payroll in the NBA last year, but finished dead last in the Atlantic Division with a record of 23-59.

Randolph’s contract pays him his $48 million through the next three seasons.

In comparison, Milicic is only owed $14.5 million over the next two seasons, and Jaric will make $21.3 million the next three seasons.

In July, Walsh tried to negotiate a similar deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The deal fell through after the Knicks decided that Randolph’s trade value may go up this season under new head coach Mike D’Antoni.

Randolph averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game during the 2007-08 season.

It is widely believed that the Knicks intend to free up salary room to make a run at LeBron James when his contract expires in 2010.

Sep
06

Evan Longoria was activated off the 15-day disabled list Saturday after the Tampa Bay slugger said he felt “almost 100 percent” following 30 swings with a regular bat.

“I don’t know how much better it could get,” Longoria said. “It felt great today.”

Longoria, out since Aug. 7 after being hit by a pitch from Seattle’s J.J. Putz, had not swung a bat in four days because of lingering pain in his fractured right wrist.

Longoria is hitting .278 with 22 homers and 71 RBIs in 104 games and is considered a leading contender for the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

He’ll likely be used as a defensive replacement for the time being, with manager Joe Maddon saying he wants Longoria to get two or three days of regular batting practice before he returns to the lineup.

The Rays have lost three of four, and entered Saturday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2 1/2-game lead over Boston in the AL East.

Longoria had only been swinging a whiffle-ball bat and a broomstick in the past week because the weight of a regular bat was too much for his wrist. That wasn’t a problem on Saturday.

“I took about 15 swings with the fungo and it felt fine,” Longoria said. “Then I got about 30 swings with the regular bat and it felt pretty much the same as swinging the fungo, which is obviously a good sign.”

Outfielder Carl Crawford, who had surgery to repair a tendon in his right middle finger Aug. 14, visited his doctor in Arizona on Thursday and remains on schedule to return by late September.

“The Doc likes the progress,” Maddon said. “It’s pretty much the same timetable that had been addressed before in regards to being able to see some action by the end of the month.”

A two-time All-Star and four-time AL stolen base champion, Crawford is batting .273 with eight homers, 57 RBIs and 25 steals.

Sep
04

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper retired from the National Football League after nine seasons, unable to find a job as a starter or backup.

Culpepper, 31, announced his decision in a letter, titled “Farewell NFL,” that was e-mailed today to the league’s Web site.

The three-time Pro Bowl pick, who played for Oakland last season, was unsigned entering the NFL’s regular season, which begins tonight as the New York Giants host Washington.

Culpepper wrote that after last season, he entered free agency with a “new sense of excitement about continuing to rebuild my career.”

“Unfortunately, what I found out was that the league did not share any of the optimism about me as an unrestricted free agent that I expected,” he said. “In fact, there was an overwhelming sense that there was no room for me among this year’s group of quarterbacks.”

Culpepper started six games last season for the Raiders after being cut by Miami. He played just four games for the Dolphins in 2006 because of injuries, after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Minnesota Vikings following surgery to repair three torn ligaments in his right knee.

Culpepper played seven seasons in Minnesota after being selected with the 11th pick of the 1999 NFL draft.

In his second season and first as a starter, he led the NFL in touchdown passes, and in 2004 led the league in passing yards per game.

He retires with 22,422 yards passing and 142 touchdowns, posting a 41-49 record as a starter. He also rushed for 2,536 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Sep
03

While the Detroit Lions organization might not have anything to say about the bizarre incident surrounding former running back Tatum Bell, current Lions running back Rudi Johnson had plenty to say.

According to Johnson, Bell took two of Johnson’s duffel bags from the Lions locker room on Monday and, when they were returned by another party on Tuesday, almost everything was missing.

“Underwear, socks, credit cards and money. He left my money clip with no money in it,” said Johnson, adding that about $200 was missing. “He should’ve taken the clip, too. It’s quite stupid if you ask me.”

Johnson was signed by the Lions on Monday and then the Lions released Tatum Bell. Johnson said he didn’t know who took his duffel bags until he saw a surveillance tape from inside the Lions facility. He said he saw Bell take his bags.

“All of this happened after he got released and came in and got some stuff out of his locker,” Johnson said. “That’s when he scooped the bags up, some real shyster, conniving stuff.”

Bell told The Detroit Free Press that it was a misunderstanding. “I ain’t no thief,” Bell said.

According to Bell, he was to pick up some bags in the locker room for defensive lineman Victor DeGrate, who was recently released. Bell said he picked up some bags in the locker room and dropped them off at a woman’s home. Bell said that he found out his error, he tried to explain it to Johnson but that Johnson wouldn’t listen.

“He tried to make up some excuse, he tried to blame it on somebody else so I didn’t try to entertain something that didn’t make any sense,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he would not involve the police.

“I’m not going to the police for this one,” he said. “I don’t need anybody else, I can handle it.”

Johnson left his duffel bags in the Lions locker room on Monday and went upstairs to talk to Lions president Matt Millen. When Johnson returned to the locker room, the bags were missing. He and Millen searched the building for the bags but couldn’t find them.

On Tuesday, after speaking to reporters — when he recounted a pleasant conversation he had had with Bell — Johnson saw the videotape. An unidentified woman apparently returned the bags to the Lions offices and Johnson then confronted Bell.

“He tried to make up an excuse. He said some girl had got it and took it to somebody’s house,” Johnson said. “The story didn’t make any sense so I didn’t pay it any attention.

“He knows how I feel about it, trust me. He knows how I feel about it and it’s nothing positive. He said it was a mixup. It is what it is.”

The Lions had issued a statement earlier in the day on Wednesday saying the club would have no comment on the situation.

Sep
02

The Denver Broncos have traded CB Dominique Foxworth to the Atalanta Falcons for an undisclosed draft pick in ’09.

“I wish the Broncos and Mike Shanahan and Pat Bowlen well,” Foxworth said. “I appreciate the time they gave me here. But if they feel it’s time for me to move on, then I have to move on. I’m fine with it.”

In 3 years with the Broncos in the NFL, he started 18 games.

Sep
02

Adrian Beltre of the Seattle Mariners and Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks became the first players in 88 years to hit for the cycle on the same day.

Bobby Veach of the Detroit Tigers and George Burns of the New York Giants lasted turned the trick on Sept. 17, 1920.

Beltre, 29, matched a career-high with five hits and set a franchise record with five runs scored as Seattle trounced the Texas Rangers 12-6 on Monday night.

He homered in the second inning and singled in the fourth and sixth off starting pitcher Matt Harrison before completing the cycle with a double off reliever Luis Mendoza in the seventh and a triple off reliever Josh Rupe in the eighth.

Three of Beltre’s hits came on 0-2 pitches.

“Beltre is known to be a darn good hitter,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “You cannot make those mistakes.”

“He is the toughest ballplayer I have ever seen,” Mariners manager Jim Riggleman said. “He plays through nagging injuries, through pain.

“He is an animal out there. I’m just very happy for him.”

Beltre is the first member of the Mariners to hit for the cycle since John Olerud accomplished the feat on June 16, 2001, and the fourth in franchise annals.

The others — Jay Buhner (June 23, 1993) and Alex Rodriguez (June 5, 1997).

“I have seen guys do it and it was pretty cool,” Beltre said. “It is pretty special, I’m proud of it.”

‘It was meant to be’

Drew, 25, is the third hitter in Diamondbacks history to complete the cycle, joining Luis Gonzalez (July 5, 2000) and Gregg Colbrunn (Sept. 18, 2002).

“I’m kind of in shock right now,” Drew said. “I’m just trying to put good ‘ABs’ [at-bats] together — it was meant to be.”

“It seems like he gets a good at-bat every time up,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “Five hits, the cycle, the whole bit – it is certainly going to be a day that he is going to remember.”

“You don’t get too many like this. It will be one of the most exciting offensive days of his life.”

Drew is the first to hit for the cycle at Chase Field, and, like Beltre, equalled a career high with five hits in a 8-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“To hit for the cycle, it is fun,” Drew said. “But it would not have really meant anything to me if we did not win.

Batting out of the leadoff spot, Drew singled in the first inning, tripled in the third and homered in the fifth off starter Joel Pineiro.

Drew hit a ground-rule double in the seventh off reliever Kyle McClellan for the cycle, and later doubled in the eighth for good measure.

“The ball just comes off his bat like lightning,” Diamondbacks second baseman David Eckstein said.

Drew is 10-17 in the first four games of Arizona’s six-game homestand.

Sep
01

Koby Clemens, the son of Roger Clemens, Mark Ori and Jimmy Goethals were arrested early Sunday morning after several members of the Salem Avalanche baseball team spent Saturday night at a popular Salem restaurant.

Clemens and Ori were charged with disorderly conduct and Goethals with assault and battery. All three were taken to the Roanoke County-Salem Jail before being released on bond, according to a news release from the Salem police.

Reached at City Stadium in Lynchburg, both Clemens and Ori declined to comment. Goethals did not return a message. Avalanche manager Jim Pankovits also declined to comment.

None of the three players played in Sunday night’s 9-7 loss to the Hillcats. Goethals, a 26-year-old backup catcher, has been out with a hamstring injury since Aug. 10.

The Avalanche season ends today with a 2:05 p.m., game in Lynchburg, the final game in a four-game series that began Friday.

Unlike most road trips, Salem commutes to its games in Lynchburg, so the team was back home after Saturday night’s game and several players went to Mac and Bob’s Restaurant on East Main Street.

According to the news release, police were dispatched to a disturbance in the restaurant’s parking lot at 2 a.m. on Sunday and, upon their arrival, found approximately 50 people in the lot.

The release does not describe any of the events leading to the arrests. It states only that Clemens and Ori were arrested on the scene and that Goethals was charged “after an employee of the restaurant obtained a warrant for his arrest” from the Roanoke County/Salem magistrate’s office.

Salem police did not release the arrest report Sunday night.

Ori, a 25-year-old first baseman from Chicago, ranked third in the Carolina League in hitting with a .304 batting average and 89 RBIs before Sunday’s game. He has 11 home runs.

Clemens, a 21-year-old catcher, is the eldest son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens.

He has hit .268 for the Avalanche this season with 29 doubles, seven homers and 52 RBIs while learning a new position and catching catcalls from fans and media as his father contends with allegations of cheating on his wife, Debbie, and using performance-enhancing drugs during his baseball career.

Aug
31

The Diamondbacks continued to add veteran players for the stretch run, acquiring middle infielder David Eckstein from Toronto for minor league pitcher Chad Beck.

“This is a great guy, a guy that has done everything right for us,” Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. “So you try to do the best for him and put him in a spot where he can go somewhere and play, which is what he wants to do, and have a chance to play in the playoffs.

“He’s just an absolute great, great guy, so hopefully it will work out good for him.”

Eckstein, who has played on World Series winners with Anaheim in 2002 and St. Louis in 2006, has played shortstop most of his major league career but is likely to become the starter at second base for the D-Backs, who lost Orlando Hudson last month.

Augie Ojeda and Chris Burke have been used as a second base platoon in the interim.

Eckstein, 33, batted .277 with one home run and 22 RBIs for the Blue Jays, who signed him as a free agent this season. Hs is hitting .357 in his last 12 games.

“When you play this game, you play for a world championship,” Eckstein said. “That’s the only reason why you show up. So now, going into a position where there is an opportunity for that, that’s definitely going to be the goal.”

He was the MVP of the 2006 World Series, when he hit .364 with four RBIs and three runs, and was an NL All-Star in 2005-06.

Eckstein will be a free agent after this season.

Beck has been used as a starter and reliever at low Class-A South Bend and high-A Visalia this season, going 7-5 with a 3.75 ERA.

Aug
30

The NBAPA suspended player agent Calvin Andrews for one year Friday for alleged recruiting improprieties regarding former Southern California star O.J. Mayo.

The union said its Disciplinary Committee has reserved the right to take further action against Andrews.

Mayo and Andrews, of Bill Duffy Associates, parted ways in May. Mayo, who played one season at USC and was drafted third overall by the Memphis Grizzlies, has denied receiving improper funds.

Mayo is now represented by Leon Rose, also LeBron James’ agent.

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