Nothing like starting off the baseball playoffs by having to address the ridiculous conditions at one of the featured ballparks. To try and avoid the quirks of Tropicana Field from coming into play and altering the outcome of a key postseason moment, MLB has changed the ground rules at the stadium. For all the national lecturing of the Tampa Bay fans for not supporting their team sufficiently, this kind of thing demonstrates a big part of why that is the case. Going to a game at the Trop doesn't feel anything like it does at other stadiums. They've tried to make it better, but there's only so much you can do with a charmless concrete non-retractable dome in the middle of a crappy part of town. I imagine there will be solid crowds for the playoff run, but scheduling the games in the middle of the day during the work week certainly won't help things either.
The headline of this Gainesville Sun piece focuses on Kenny Boynton being named to the Wooden Award watch list heading into basketball season, but to me that's not the most noteworthy part of the story. Kentucky's resurgence and the new TV deal brought the SEC considerably more national exposure last season, yet a year later only three conference players are in the perceived "top 50". The award field isn't closed off to only these fifty, and there are players not on the list who will wind up being stars by the end of the season. Whether the SEC eventually has more contenders isn't the issue to me, the lack of any progress toward national respect for the talent in the league is. A guy like Travis Leslie of Georgia makes this list with the same numbers and ability playing at a Big East school. Hopefully the SEC can change that mindset this season.
One thing that's definitely not helping the perception of SEC hoops is Bruce Pearl's situation at Tennessee. ESPN's turned up details of Pearl committing the exact same violation at his last job - having a junior player he was recruiting over to his house - that he lied to NCAA investigators about before confessing to the falsehood last month. Does that mean Pearl will get a more severe punishment from the NCAA as a repeat violator? Maybe not, but the fact he had extra cause to know exactly what rule he was violating and chose to do so again anyway certainly can't help UT's chances.
Cycling isn't a prime subject for discussion here on the blog, but since we got one of the great sports excuses of all time from it recently I'll make an exception. Alberto Contador claimed his positive drug test which may cost him the Tour de France win was caused by tainted meat. Some even made the argument he might have a case due to the small amount of the substance in question showing up in his blood. Turns out Contador failed another test for a different banned substance the day before the "tainted meat" test. Gosh, I know I'm shocked. At least the "tainted meat" defense was better than Floyd Landis's "I had some beers, plus I'm really manly" excuse for how his testosterone levels were off the chart in his failed test.
The latest example of Hollywood's complete inability or unwillingness to come up with new material comes from an interview with Bruce Willis. He says Die Hard 5 is probably going to happen in 2011. If John McClane just happens to stumble onto another massive terrorist plot, he officially becomes Angela Lansbury from "Murder She Wrote". (After someone's had more than 100 people killed with her around, especially with her friend or someone close to them almost always accused of the murder, wouldn't you stop inviting her to go places?) Die Hard 4 was officially called "Live Free or Die Hard" - this one will be called "Go Ahead and Die Already".