Pete Mcentegart
Thursday January 20th, 2005

1. With Barry Bonds joining the 700-homer club on Friday, sportswriters unearthed the New York Times' story chronicling Babe Ruth's 700th homer on July 13, 1934. The article's first line flatly stated that the record by the onetime left-handed pitcher "promises to endure for all time." Most pundits viewed the over-exuberance as charming evidence of how much baseball has changed, though critics said it simply underscored the Times' longstanding bias toward left-wingers.

2. The Europeans smoked the U.S. team 18 ½-9 ½ at the Ryder Cup over the weekend, once again depriving the Americans of victory in a sport they once dominated. The U.S. squad had a late chance at a comeback snuffed when, from about 21 feet away, LeBron James missed a 3-pointer.

3. The Giants won their first home game since the team's 2003 season opener on Sunday with a 20-14 victory over the Redskins. One New York wag pointed out during the postgame news conference that the home losing streak had stretched for 9,072 hours, but crusty Giants coach Tom Coughlin insisted that the skid had only lasted 9,071 hours and 55 minutes.

4. Deion Sanders made the best play of his comeback so far on Sunday with a 23-yard punt return, but the Ravens defensive back was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after yanking off his helmet. Sanders insisted he did so only because his skull cap had run down over his eyes. The league office later indicated the penalty was actually the first assessed under the NFL's new rule against excessive hubris.

5. One of the great (and terrible) things about living in New York City is that there are millions of other people here. The positive side of that fact is on display on fall Saturdays, when many Manhattan bars are transformed into raucous football viewing parties for the alumni and fans of various colleges. I've happily jumped aboard the LSU bandwagon since my stint on the Bayou. After Saturday's disappointing 10-9 defeat to Auburn, though, I stuck around with some friends to watch the Tennessee-Florida game amongst a UT crowd. It turned out that we were sitting next to a group of former Volunteer football players. We know this because one of them, fullback Eric Lane ('93-96), actually introduced himself. It turned out that he had recognized my friend's sweatshirt as one from Williams College, a Division III school in northwestern Massachusetts and the 10 Spot's alma mater. Lane had been a high school teammate at New Jersey's Bergen Catholic with Mike Bajakian, a former Williams quarterback who is now an offensive quality-control coach for the Bears. That connection was worth a few hearty stanzas of Rocky Top with the orange-clad faithful when James Wilhoit's 50-yard field goal went through the uprights with six seconds left.

6. Reader mail: Sean from Livingston, N.J., writes: "I picked up EA's NHL 2005 yesterday. I installed it and went to play a game and my PC crashed. Guess if it's in the game, it really is in the game." Well done, Sean. Please pick up your check for one-tenth of my daily pay. I'd mail it, but the stamp would cost more than the check is worth.

7. Halftime interview of the weekend: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr never seems happy to see a sideline reporter, but he was particularly dyspeptic during halftime of Saturday's game against San Diego State. His mood was understandable since Michigan was trailing 21-17 in the Big House. During the first half, Carr had yanked his starting quarterback for a few series and rotated several tailbacks in an effort to get something going on offense. The Wolverines had also seen a few questionable calls go against them, after the visiting Aztecs had vetoed the use of the Big Ten's instant-replay experiment. That was the setting for this exchange with ESPN's Holly Rowe:

HR: What did the alternating of quarterbacks and running back do to your momentum during the first half?

LC: [Icy glare] I don't think it did anything.

HR: What did you think about the officiating? You don't have instant replay. How did it affect the game?

LC: [deadpan] Well, I think the best officials in the country are in the Big Ten conference.

HR: [pauses, laughs] OK. Tell us what you're expecting here in the second half.

LC: I'm expecting a comeback. [Carr then tries to leave, but Rowe continues.]

HR: The kids are saying, "Set the tone." Where are they getting that from?

LC: Well, we're in a position coming off a very difficult loss. Now we're behind at the half. We're going to find out a lot about our football team right now.

HR: Thanks, coach.

LC: Thank you.

The Wolverines went on to win 24-21. The 10 Spot doesn't expect that Carr and Rowe got together afterward for drinks.

8. Ichiro update: His record chase is slipping away after going 0-for-4 with an intentional walk against the A's on Sunday. That completed a 3-for-14 mark in the three-game series. Ichiro is stuck on 236 hits, needing 22 to break George Sisler's record of 257 with 13 games to play. No news on what Ichiro may or may not have said to Holly Rowe.

9. Apprentice update: When did Donald Trump morph into Mark Cuban? The 10 Spot was very disappointed in the elimination of Bradford in last week's episode. Not because we were huge fans of Bradford -- he was pretty grating -- but because the ouster seemed so capricious. Yes, Bradford was foolish for giving up what amounted to immunity, which I don't recall anybody ever doing on Survivor. (Kathy didn't even transfer immunity to Lex when she had promised she would on Survivor All-Stars, but let's not get sidetracked.) But Bradford could and did make a decent case for putting himself on the line because he was confident that he had performed well during the task, certainly better than resident wacko Stacie J. and wishy-washy project manager Ivana. That's usually the kind of cockeyed confidence Trump admires. Instead, he decided to toss Bradford for his disavowal of immunity, ponderously calling it a "life-threatening decision." Come on, Donald, it's just a TV show.

Stacie J. should be gone, though the rationale for firing her -- that she had mistakenly identified the location of the second gelatin cart as 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue rather than 42nd and Broadway and thus cost the team an hour or so -- was laughable. George pointed out as much in the boardroom. As the 10 Spot confirmed Sunday night by walking to the very spot in question, those two corners are barely 30 yards apart because Seventh Avenue and Broadway (which both run north-south) are in the process of criss-crossing. (That the 10 Spot would check this in person either shows an admirable devotion to our readers or an alarming idiocy. Perhaps both.) If Maria had really been on 42nd and Seventh as she claimed, she would have had to be blind not to see the gelato cart on Broadway -- especially if it was surrounded by an NBC camera crew.

10. Jeopardy update: Ken Jennings posted one of the easiest wins of his streak on Friday's episode, finishing Double Jeopardy with $38,000 (second-place Greg had $2,600) and nailing Final Jeopardy for an even $50,000. (Category: Marilyn Monroe movies, A: Marilyn plots her husband's murder at a honeymoon site in this, her only film with a one-word title; Q: What is Niagara?) That runs Ken's 48-day total to $1,635,061. The show's Tournament of Champions airs the next two weeks (without Ken), so the 10 Spot's Jeopardy updates are on hiatus until then. And to Joseph of Oakland Gardens, N.Y. ("When are you going to write about important sports stories instead of what you watch on TV?"), please try to contain your excitement.

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