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Taxi Squad

The week's top hockey story came discourtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks, whose young hotshot Patrick Kane found himself in the jug after an early morning imbroglio with a Buffalo cab driver (one in the city of Buffalo, not an actual buffalo). Therein lies a little cautionary tale:

At first blush, it appeared Kane and his cousin callously beat a 62-year-old cabbie for refusing to cough up 20 cents change, and this naturally led to all kinds of tut-tutting about rich, arrogant pro athletes going Bill Sikes on the public. But subsequent reports have revealed that the cabbie is a cantankerous sort -- think Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino -- who was driving with a revoked license and known for coarse language and locking passengers inside his cab. No doubt, some sort of pleasantries ensued, so stay tuned. As an unfolding story, it's a wee bit more compelling than the Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings if only as yet another example of the bad things that happen with pro athletes afterhours.

It was quite a stir that good ol' Shaq O'Neal caused with his threat to waltz two miles along the California sand in a pink Speedo if he lost his beach volleyball match against Olympic gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh for his forthcoming TV extravaganza Shaq Vs. Besides causing many concerned burghers to ponder the benefits of blindness in this instance, Diesel inspired instant unwanted thoughts of other truly frightening sights in skimpy, ultra-tight swimwear, among them CC Sabathia, David Ortiz, Tony Siragusa and John Madden. (This space regrets spoiling your lunch, if such was the case.)

No doubt you're already groovin' to the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, which falls on Saturday, Aug. 15 and runs through the 17th. Books, movies and memories have been flowing all year along with celebrations of the many other notable events of 1969, which was a pretty far out year for sports.

It began with the Jets (the Jets!) winning the Super Bowl after Broadway Joe Namath's famous "guarantee" and included the first female jockey (Diane Crump) to ride against men in American thoroughbred racing, Rod Laver winning the grand slam in men's tennis with Margaret Court taking all but Wimbledon in the women's division, Orville Moody bagging the golf's U.S. Open, and pitcher Gaylord Perry hitting his first career dinger -- his manager vowed, "They'll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run" -- only hours after Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 module landed on ol' Luna.

Then there were the Miracle Mets, who won 100 games, knocked off Hank Aaron's Braves in the inaugural N.L. Championship Series, and stunned the Orioles in the World Series. That brings us back to Woodstock.

According to the new six-CD boxed set Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, the 400,000 baked mud-caked revelers received stage announcements that included the famous warning about the dubious quality of the brown acid, mann, and a promise that the score of the Mets game would be relayed as soon as it was received. And Woodstock proved to be good karma for the Amazin's, who snapped a three-game skid on Aug. 16 by sweeping a home doubleheader vs. the spankin' new San Diego Padres -- 2-0 (Tom Seaver's 17th win) and 2-1 (save: Tug McGraw) -- beginning a 14-2 run that helped them overcome a 9-1/2 game deficit and overtake the Cubs. On Oct. 19, the unlikely champion Mets made some music of their own, singing "You Gotta Have Heart" on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Alas, this year's squad is a bummer that hits only sour notes. But 1969, those were the daze.

Among the many immortal performances at Woodstock was Jimi Hendrix's mindblowing rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. That innovative tradition continued last weekend in Washington, D.C. where Glenn Donnellan, a violinist for the National Symphony Orchestra sawed out a version on a baseball bat before the Washington Nationals' game against Arizona. Donnellan turned a Derek Jeter model into a battery-operated electric violin and went down like gangbusters. His handiwork brings to mind Woostock alumnus John Fogerty's bat guitar, which he's used to serenade fans with his classic "Centerfield." But for mind-altering versions of our national anthem, we still bow to Roseanne Barr's.

This space notes with some wistfulness that Del Mar racetrack in California is following the lead of its counterparts in Kentucky, New York and Maryland by requiring jockeys to use riding crops that don't raise welts. The softer whips incite horses to run faster -- theoretically, at least -- by making a loud popping noise instead of inflicting pain. Now if this space can just get the spouse to switch to one...

If you peruse this space with the slightest degree of regularity, you know we love a good promotional night/day as much as the next surly yob. So whilst watching a cat cavort on the field in Kansas City last week, we felt compelled -- in the interests of equal time -- to report that the Atlanta Braves will hold their final Bark In The Park of the season on Sunday, Sept. 6. For the low, low discount price of $25, pooch lovers can purchase a human ticket, a dog ticket and a donation to non-profit organizations that help needy animals.

"WAG-A-LOT, Atlanta's first doggie-day-care center, will be on hand to help ensure all animals enjoy their time at Turner Field," promises the Braves' PR announcement. "Braves Coca-Cola Sky Field will be transformed into a doggie-paradise, complete with on-site veterinary services, doggie pools, cool water misters, and plenty of watering holes for the pets to stay hydrated."

We can just see all the happy woofers wagging their tails, foaming at the mouth, tearing the seats out of trousers and chasing any felines that wander onto the diamond while the hometown nine battles the Redlegs of Cincinnati.

In the wake of David Ortiz going with the good ol' over-the-counter-supplements defense after revelations that he failed a test for performance-enhancers, the key question is: Exactly what are these supplements that keep causing our superstars such grief? Our "inside souse" maintains that Ortiz, like so many modern athletes, was heavily into supplementing his diet with lemon curd tartlets, a popular British confection.

"Lemon curd apparently contains compounds that produce false positives for things like performance-enhancers and even explosives," states our souse, who spent ample time hanging about the chemist's on London's Abbey Road. You can take it from us on that last count. This space encountered a monumental security hassle at Heathrow Airport last Saturday when a small jar of lemon curd in our carry-on drew the attention of steely-eyed checkpoint guards. After being wanded, frisked, sternly questioned, made to empty the bag, and booted out to check the offending dessert into the baggage hold, this space then sweated out arrival at New York's Kennedy Airport where our pulse was elevated by the sight of two grim Homeland Security guards as soon as the aircraft door was opened. Lemon curd. It's ain't nothin' but trouble. Just ask Big Papi.

Among the wonders of the space-time delivery portal on your right is the opportunity to perform a valuable civic duty. While this space welcomes (sort of) and reads all dispatches, it also appreciates (sort of) alerts to blunders and typographical gaffes.

Now, let us state that we well understand the gravitas and responsibility affixed to the brand name Sports Illustrated. The public expects -- and rightly so -- that we be deity-like: omniscient and perfect. The times when our intentions are willing but our brains/fingers weak brook little sympathy, as exhibited in this pithy missive from reader KennyG (who oddly declined to note his hometown) after we inadvertently spelled a city in Ohio "Arkon" two weeks ago:

It's Akron you f@*%i^g {RICHARD}! Get a LIFE!!

Duly noted. Chastened, too. We now go, limping, in search of a life. In the meantime, keep the feedback, spam, and rotten cabbages coming.

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