Pete Mcentegart
Thursday January 20th, 2005

1. Sammy Sosa angered the Cubs by packing up and leaving for home, without permission, shortly before Sunday's season finale. Maybe the slugger simply got confused, since the rest of the Cubs seemed to pack it in a week earlier.

2. Knicks president Isiah Thomas has invested in a two-store popcorn business in Manhattan named Popcorn, Indiana. As of Tuesday, Thomas had already traded three employees to the Popcorn, Golden State franchise for some kernels to be named later.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Tuesday was fined $10,000 and, more significantly, lost 25 championship points after cursing in Victory Lane during a live TV interview after Sunday's race at Talladega. An excited Earnhardt was trying to downplay his emotional victory, his fifth at the track, by telling NBC's Bill Weber, "It don't mean s--- right now. Daddy won here 10 times." Two Busch series drivers were each fined $10,000 and docked 25 points for using the same word in radio interviews following races earlier this year. Earnhardt's 25-point loss dropped him into second place, 12 behind Kurt Busch with seven races left. In an exclusive 10 Spot interview, Sports Illustrated NASCAR writer Lars Anderson said that Earnhardt was atypically distraught at his slip-up. (Actually, we just called Lars to give him grief for not calling the 10 Spot during a recent New York trip, but since we had him on the line anyway we decided to get an item out of it.) Lars and Junior's PR guy were the last two people left in the Talladega press box when Lars inquired as to how Earnhardt was celebrating his win, as is his wont. But Junior's guy said he wasn't partying because he felt as badly as if he'd finished 30th. Lars predicted that Junior would indeed be docked the points, if only so NASCAR could rebut the feeling that some drivers have that fan-favorite Earnhardt gets preferential treatment.

4. Manchester United fans are rallying to defend their team from an expected takeover bid by Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer. Fans say the problem isn't really that Glazer is an American, but that he doesn't understand the history of the tradition-rich club. But Glazer's supporters point out that though the Bucs are winless, their average of 12.3 points a game would be bloody brilliant in soccer.

5. Redskins running back Clinton Portis says the Browns seemed to know what was coming in Cleveland's victory on Sunday, even calling out plays as the Redskins came to the line of scrimmage. Washington coach Joe Gibbs hoped to watch the replay to see if that was true, but unfortunately he's run out of challenges again.

6. Several readers, notably Josh of Washington D.C. and Tom of Seattle, pointed out that the 10 Spot wasn't entirely accurate on Monday in arguing that without the wild card, the Astros' season would have long been meaningless because of the Cardinals' big lead in the NL Central. The introduction of the wild card in 1994, of course, was accompanied by the creation of three divisions in each league rather than two. In the pre-wild card era, the Cards would have run away with the NL East. There was no NL Central. The West, meanwhile, would have been a battle royale between the Braves, Dodgers, Astros and Giants. (This presumes we make the always-dangerous move to hold all other things equal. The schedules played by each team, though, would have looked quite different in the two-division format. But let's carry on.) The Astros would have finished third in that alignment given this season's records, four games behind the Braves and one behind the Dodgers. So Astros fans should still be thankful for the wild card, if not for the precise reason offered by the 10 Spot. As Dan Rather might say, the point was false, but still true in substance.

7. The European soccer governing body, UEFA, has threatened to remove the 2008 European Championships from hosts Austria and Switzerland, citing the Swiss for failing to build a new stadium in Zurich. Despite the threat, the Swiss remained neutral.

8. Nike will shortly introduce a new athletic shoe, the Nike Harris Tweed Terminator Lows, in the United Kingdom. Thousands of meters of specially woven tweed has been manufactured for the shoes by a small family firm on the Scottish island of Harris. The shoes will be dubbed Air Jeeves.

9. The 10 Spot wants to express its outrage at Reebok's marketing philosophy. With the opening of the company's Beverly Hills store, the Boston Globe explained Reebok's belief that "for the price of one ad in one issue of GQ ... it can give away thousands of sneakers, T-shirts, yoga outfits and cashmere shirts to celebrities." First, the 10 Spot objects to taking money out of the hands of magazine companies, where it might eventually trickle down into our paycheck. Secondly, who needs free stuff less than celebrities do? No, the 10 Spot is pretty steamed, and it will be difficult to snuff this principled fire. (Note to Reebok: We wear a size 10.)

10. Jeopardy update: Ken Jennings had to sweat out his closest game in months against Jeff, a toxicologist from California. Ken even appeared unusually flustered at times. Once, Ken buzzed in only to completely blank on a response, offering only, "I have no idea." Going into Final Jeopardy, Ken led $19,700 to $14,800. That's when Jeff employed some very savvy betting. Since Ken had to assume that Jeff would bet it all, the champ wagered $9,901, to give him $29,601 and a $1 win if both answered correctly. But Jeff wisely realized that if Ken bet that way and answered correctly, Jeff couldn't catch him anyway. So Jeff wagered $4,900. That way, if both men missed the question, Jeff would have won with $9,900 to $9,799. In other words, Jeff gave himself two potential winning scenarios: if Jeff was right and Ken was wrong, or if both were wrong. The strategy went for naught when Ken nailed it while Jeff missed. The final answer in the category of poets was: "Called the two most innovative 19th Century American poets, one didn't read the other after being 'told that he was disgraceful.' " The correct question: "Who are Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman?" Ken breathed an audible sigh when told he was correct. (Jeff went with Longfellow and Cooper.) Ken has now won 48 games and a total of $1,664,662.

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