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US Open under way on a new kind of Pinehurst
PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) Daniel Berger hit the opening tee shot in the U.S. Open that illustrated the difference of Pinehurst No. 2. He hit an iron just short of the sandy area filled with native plants - or weeds - and clumps of wiregrass bushes. In the two previous U.S. Opens at Pinehurst No. 2, his ball might have been in thick rough that is typical of the so-called toughest test in golf. Under cloud cover in North Carolina, the U.S. Open was off to a quiet start. Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson made birdie on the opening hole. Birdies are expected to be hard to find at Pinehurst, even with its new look. It is reputed to be one of the tougher U.S. Open courses because of its turtleback greens designed by Donald Ross. For now, the course is the story. The resort hired Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to restore the natural look of more than a half-century ago to this Ross masterpiece. Some 40 acres of sod was removed, and now there are vast expanses of what appears to be sandy dunes. This U.S. Open effectively has no rough. The amount of sprinklers was reduced by nearly 60 percent, and they are in a single row in the middle of fairways. So the course has a very brown look to it, especially around the edges. Players have been raving about it all week, even though they knew what was in store for them. The one player getting plenty of attention is Phil Mickelson. He teed off Thursday morning in his quest to finally win a U.S. Open. Mickelson holds the record with six runner-up finishes, and that takes on even greater significance because the U.S. Open is the only major keeping him from the career Grand Slam. As part of this major's tradition, Mickelson's victory in the British Open last summer put him in the same group as the U.S. Open champion - Justin Rose, who denied Mickelson the title last year at Merion. Also joining them was U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick. Rory McIlroy was among the early starters. Thu, 12 Jun 2014 12:09:00 +0000
At 32, US's Beckerman gets his shot at World Cup
SAO PAULO (AP) His shirt off post practice with multiple upper-body tattoos on display and dreadlocks as messy as ever, Kyle Beckerman signed autographs through a small space in the fence separating him from a swarm of fans. For Beckerman, being in Brazil is what he planned all along. Ever since the days he began signing his autograph as an unofficial member of the national team around age 8. Whether leaving a note to his parents letting them know he'd gone to a friend's house and wouldn't be home for dinner or was off to soccer practice, Beckerman always ended with his signature of Kyle Beckerman, followed by "USA No. 15." Now, at 32, Beckerman is living it for real. "Yeah, it's come full circle," Beckerman said. "I didn't know. That's what I wanted to happen, but you never know." Beckerman knows this will all go by far too quickly, because as soon the Americans are done playing in Brazil he will be back to his job as captain of Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake. Midfield mate Brad Davis posted a photo on Twitter of him with Beckerman, who gave a thumbs up as they departed for Brazil while carrying a guitar on his back. The dreads go way back for Beckerman, whose curly hair would easily knot up if he neglected to comb it as a kid - forcing his mom to pull out the scissors. Once out of the house, he let it go for good. Beckerman keeps things light with his music for the Americans. "Of course, look at his hair, man, a bit of Bob Marley," Davis said Wednesday. "He's a bit of a free spirit." While Beckerman didn't play in the first of three sendoff matches, he came in for the second half against Turkey and moved into the starting lineup in a defensive role for the finale against Nigeria as coach Jurgen Klinsmann switched up his midfield. "We've often talked about Kyle, and we keep talking about him because he's a pure giver to that team. He's one that covers other's backs, and that's literally what he's doing," Klinsmann said. "Chemistry-wise, he's an extremely important player to that group, because he has tremendous experience, he's always hungry and you know that when he steps on the field, even if it's a public training session, that he's going to go 150 percent." Klinsmann could mix and match, yet it looks like Beckerman might start Monday's World Cup opener against Ghana. "This whole process of being with the national team, you've just got to be ready, ready when your number's called," Beckerman said. His teammates trust him to be that reliable defensive stopper no matter the situation or who is attacking. "He's a very disciplined player," midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. "He's the type of guy that will be that No. 6, that anchor guy that makes sure when players like myself or the outside backs spring forward, that we know he's going to be there covering our backs." Soccer's showcase event means so much to Beckerman, among the inaugural players to take part in the U.S. under-17 residence program in 1999 along with Landon Donovan, current left back DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu. He helped that American team reach the semifinals of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship. He's at a different level now. "It hasn't totally sunk in that this is the team," he said. "I got a little taste of it with the youth national teams, the under-17s but you never know with the full team. It's just amazing that it's come full circle." Now that he's in Brazil, he wants to savor the experience. "I've talked to a couple people who played in World Cups before, and they say it just goes by like that. As soon as we get done with this we have our season going on. It's like it didn't even happen. I'm trying to soak it all in for sure and enjoy it." --- AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report. Thu, 12 Jun 2014 21:12:00 +0000
No charges in Fla. for Kaepernick, 2 other players
MIAMI (AP) San Francisco 49ers star quarterback Colin Kaepernick and two other NFL players will not face charges in an incident involving a woman at a downtown hotel, prosecutors announced Thursday. A memo released by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office said there was insufficient evidence that any crime was committed in the hotel room on April 1. Tests indicated the woman was not sexually assaulted and other evidence backed up the players' contention that nothing happened. In fact, the memo by Assistant State Attorney Laura Adams described the woman as incoherent when police and fire-rescue officers responded to 911 calls to the room at the Viceroy Hotel. She had to be sedated in order to be taken to the hospital, where she was temporarily involuntarily committed for her own safety, the memo says. "When she heard the officers' voices, the complainant started screaming incoherently about Jesus and devils," Adams wrote. A hotel security officer told police that when he arrived at the room, the woman began praying, "asking God to forgive her of her sins" and began screaming in words the security officer couldn't understand, according to the memo. She banged her head against the walls and started kicking uncontrollably. At the hospital, doctors noted that she was "severely agitated" and appeared to be in an altered mental state, although no evidence of drugs beyond marijuana were detected in her system, Adams wrote. The woman had told police she and the three players had drinks and smoked marijuana earlier in the night. Kaepernick consistently denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this month the 49ers gave the 26-year-old a $126 million, six-year contract extension that will keep him in San Francisco through 2020. He was drafted in 2011 in the second round out of Nevada. The other players in the room that night were 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton, and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. The prosecutor's memo says that an attorney for Kaepernick and Lockette told investigators they met the woman about a year ago in Atlanta and that she and Kaepernick had sex. The woman later told Kaepernick she was pregnant and he cut off contact with her, including changing his phone number, the memo says. Eventually, she learned Kaepernick and Lockette would be in Miami and made arrangements to visit them, traveling by Greyhound bus. After the woman's behavior deteriorated, Kaepernick contacted a nearby friend and decided to leave the hotel. "I'm leaving right now I'm terrified," Kaepernick texted the friend, according to the prosecutor's memo. ----- Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt Thu, 12 Jun 2014 18:34:00 +0000
Falcons to be featured on Hard Knocks this year
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons have announced they will be featured on HBO Sports' documentary series Hard Knocks this summer. The five-part weekly series debuts Aug. 5 and concludes Sept. 2. The annual show gives fans an all-access, behind-the-scenes look at the daily lives and routines of players and coaches as they prepare for the upcoming NFL season. Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank says the team is "excited about the opportunity to give our fans a behind the scenes look at what it takes to prepare an NFL team for the rigors of a 16-game regular season and beyond." Hard Knocks is now its ninth season. Other teams previously featured on the award-winning reality series include the Ravens, Chiefs, Jets and Dolphins. The Cowboys and Bengals have each been featured twice. --- AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org Thu, 12 Jun 2014 17:48:00 +0000
Trial will weigh if Sterling was properly ousted
LOS ANGELES (AP) A trial will be held next month to determine whether Donald Sterling, who opposes his estranged wife's planned sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, was properly removed as an administrator for the family trust that owns the team. A probate court judge in Los Angeles Wednesday denied Shelly Sterling's urgent request to confirm her authority as sole administrator of The Sterling Family Trust so that she can unilaterally proceed with a $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Instead, the judge agreed to an expedited hearing because of looming sales deadlines. The development is the latest in a legal tug-of-war following the NBA's decision to ban Donald Sterling for life after racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. Donald Sterling is fighting the decision and suing the league for $1 billion. The league has contended the comments were bad for business and damaged both the Clippers and the NBA. The four-day trial was granted exceptionally quickly and will begin July 7. The deadline for the sale is July 15, which also is the date the NBA's owners hope to vote on whether they will approve the sale. Court filings Wednesday indicated the NBA has set a hard deadline of Sept. 15. If the sale isn't completed then, the league will undertake proceedings to seize and sell the team on its own. Donald Sterling's lawyer, Bobby Samini, left the courthouse without comment after a clerk announced the trial schedule. Neither Sterling was present. "I just want to resolve this as quickly as possible," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Associated Press on Wednesday in Miami at an NBA Cares event. The crux of the case will center on the question of whether the 80-year-old Donald Sterling is mentally competent to be a co-trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which gives him the authority to determine the team's future. According to the trust's terms, he can be ruled "mentally incapacitated" after being evaluated by two doctors, said Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly Sterling's attorney. Shelly Sterling activated that clause in negotiating what would be a record-breaking deal with Ballmer as sole trustee. But Donald Sterling challenged the removal in a letter sent Monday to his wife's attorney said "any attempt to remove me as a Trustee of the Sterling Trust is invalid and illegal. Furthermore, any assertion that I am `incapacitated'... is false and without merit." According to court documents, two doctors examined Donald Sterling in May and concluded that he suffers from "mild cognitive impairment consistent with early Alzheimer's Disease" or some other forms of brain disease after examining brain scans and having him undergo other tests. "In my opinion he is substantially unable to manage his finances and resist fraud and undue influence, and is no longer competent to act as trustee of his trust," concluded Dr. James E. Spar, who is affiliated with the division of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA. Sterling voluntarily went to the doctors at the request of his wife, according to a person with knowledge of the proceedings who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly. A third doctor reviewed the two doctors' findings as well as Sterling's brain scans and concurred with their conclusions that he "lacks the capacity to function as trustee." Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, contested the doctors' findings in remarks Tuesday to The Associated Press. "Anybody at his age level on a brain scan would probably show some impairment. But that doesn't mean you forget where your car keys are and you're incompetent," Blecher said. "There isn't the slightest evidence he's incapable of managing his affairs." Donald Sterling said in a statement that he's not just fighting for the Clippers but taking a stand against the NBA, which he called "a band of hypocrites and bullies" and "despicable monsters" who want "to take away our privacy rights and freedom of speech." "As I've said previously, if Donald chooses to litigate against us, so be it," Silver said. "So it's going to take longer than we had hoped for this transaction to close, but it'll get done ultimately. It's just a question of time." Ballmer's attorney, Adam Streisand, said he was pleased with the trial schedule and "confident that after the trial the court is going to bless this transaction." The NBA's general counsel, Rick Buchanan, warned in a court papers that if the judge didn't confirm Shelly Sterling's sole trusteeship and if her deal with Ballmer "is not promptly consummated, there will be substantial harm" to the Clippers, the NBA and even The Sterling Family Trust - the last of which would be responsible for the NBA's costs related to the legal proceedings that result. Buchanan said a recent independent survey of more than 500 Clippers fans found the majority would be less likely to support the team if Donald Sterling remained its owner. Buchanan said thousands of NBA fans worldwide have contacted the league directly or via social media to say they're hurt or embarrassed by his views and aren't sure they'll continue supporting the league and its teams. He also cited NBA player worries about the impact for the team with the upcoming NBA draft. "Mr. Sterling's continued ownership is damaging the Clippers' and NBA's relationships with existing and potential business partners and licenses," Buchanan wrote. He said nearly all of the Clippers' local sponsors have terminated or suspended their relationships with the team, including Adidas, Commerce Casino and Hotel, Red Bull, Mandalay Bay Hotel, Virgin America and Mercedes. Shelly Sterling's court bid aims to have a judge confirm her authority as sole trustee to ensure the Ballmer sale moves forward. Blecher said that a representative for Donald Sterling would be at any hearing, and that the next step is to have other doctors evaluate Donald Sterling. "I have no doubt at the end of the day the court is not going to say he's incompetent," Blecher said. "That's a very high burden in the probate court - otherwise people would get their sisters and wife and brother-in-laws and everybody declared incompetent." --- AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report. --- Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:56:00 +0000
Female official hopes to break NFL barrier
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Sarah Thomas starts the day at her second job by tucking her long blond hair inside her cap, so she doesn't get noticed. On a football field, that's impossible. Thomas doesn't consider herself a pioneer, just "one of the guys." But as one of two female officials in the NFL's officiating development program, Thomas has a chance to break barriers in a male-dominated profession. This week, Thomas, a former college basketball player, current college official and mother of three whose full-time job is as pharmaceutical sales representative, worked with a crew of officials during Browns mini-camp. Like the players, she worked on improving her skills and honing her craft. One day, she hopes to be on the field with the pros. But not because of her gender. "I am a female, but I don't look at myself as just a female," she said. "I look at myself as an official." Thomas began her officiating career in 1996, when an NFL scout spotted her working a high school game. From there, she joined Conference USA and was invited to join the NFL's developmental program, now in its second year. Thomas worked some training camps and preseason games last season. The next step is a regular-season game, and the earliest that can happen is 2015. It's not her call, so to speak, but Thomas believes she's ready. If this week was any indication, Thomas could be on her way. "She's done a good job," Browns coach Mike Pettine said after practice Thursday. Pettine believes it's time for the league to welcome female officials. "If she's efficient and good at what she does, I have no issues with it," Pettine said. "I think the best compliment somebody paid to her was when someone said, `What did you think of the female official?' And they said, `There's a female official out here?' I thought she was on point." Browns cornerback Joe Haden joked that Thomas was a little whistle happy. "She was calling everything," Haden said, smiling. "I couldn't snap on her. I was chilling." Thomas said her goal is to blend in. She doesn't want to stand out because of her sex - or worse, because she's not competent. She's dedicated to being a solid, fair and mostly unseen, which is why she pulls her hair up under her cap. Still, sometimes players do a double take when they see her on the field. "I think sometimes they go `What is that?"' she said. "Yes, I do tuck my hair and at first I really wasn't too sure why. But I get it. We don't want to be noticed and anything I can do to blend in - I like it when I leave the field and people go `I told you that was a girl."' Thomas has two boys and an 18-month-old girl. She said her sons are most interested in her nabbing some NFL attire or autographs, "I can't do that," she said. Her children have never thought about their mom being anything other than an official, so they don't really grasp that she could make history as the NFL's first female official. "They just know mom officiates and it's nothing foreign to them or pioneering or anything," she said. "I do this." --- AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org Thu, 12 Jun 2014 21:51:00 +0000
Donovan to analyze US team during World Cup
LOS ANGELES -- ESPN has hired Landon Donovan to offer commentary on the U.S. soccer team he was cut from just before the World Cup. The 32-year-old Donovan, the American career leader in goals and assists, was dropped last month in a highly debated move by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Donovan made his debut during ESPN's two-hour World Cup preview show Wednesday. On Klinsmann's comments that the U.S. isn't ready to win a World Cup, Donovan said on air: "This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I disagree with Jurgen." Donovan will work out of the company's Los Angeles studios, with a particular focus on his former team. He will provide analysis before and after the Americans' group-stage matches and during halftime. Donovan also will appear on shows such as "SportsCenter." "Clearly he knows the team," ESPN President John Skipper said in Sao Paulo. "We're going to have him concentrate on the day before the U.S. games, the day of the U.S. games. It is not our expectation to put him on the spot." A veteran of three World Cups, Donovan can provide inside analysis of the Americans. "We're much more interested in tactics and his reaction to how they are playing," Skipper said. "He knows the team." Donovan scored a U.S.-record five World Cup goals, including a stoppage-time goal against Algeria sent the Americans to the second round four years ago. Former teammate Jozy Altidore said in Sao Paulo he wasn't too surprised by the move. "He's a smart guy. He knows the game very well," Altidore said. "It was always going to going to happen - right? - him to be a commentator." Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya agreed that "I don't see any problem with it." "I feel like people are probably going to want to tune in on that, yeah," he added. Thu, 12 Jun 2014 01:55:00 +0000
Knicks hire Derek Fisher as head coach
Derek Fisher was never the best player, certainly not the tallest or quickest. But whether on the court with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, or across the bargaining table from David Stern and Adam Silver, he never feared taking the shot, speaking his mind, or doing whatever else was expected of a leader. So he has every attribute the New York Knicks need - except experience as a coach, the job they hired him to do. "But I am experienced," Fisher said Tuesday. "Basketball is a game that I am experienced in playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group of people achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete, and that's being a champion. That I have experience in, and that's the experience that I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization." That's what made Phil Jackson turn to one of his most trustworthy former players for his first coaching hire. Just days after finishing his 18th season, the 39-year-old Fisher was tabbed to replace Mike Woodson, whom Jackson fired in his first major move as team president. Fisher won five championships playing for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and was known for his knack for hitting clutch postseason shots while playing an NBA-record 259 playoff games. But some of his most important work came in the locker room, just as it will now. "He made some incredible shots in the playoffs, always stepped into the vacuum of leadership, but more than anything else it was the ability of Derek to speak the truth from what the sense of the group was," Jackson said during a press conference at the Knicks' training center in Greenburgh, New York. The Knicks went 37-45 and missed the playoffs, just a year after winning the Atlantic Division and advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Jackson, who declined an original offer to coach the team, was instead hired to run the front office in March and fired Woodson the week after the season ended. He was seeking someone familiar with the triangle offense and someone with little or no coaching experience that he could teach. The Knicks had nearly closed a deal to hire Steve Kerr, who instead left the TNT broadcast table to take the Golden State Warriors' coaching job. Jackson then turned his attention to Fisher, even getting fined $25,000 last week when he was too open about his interest in the point guard who was still under contract with the Thunder. Terms of Fisher's deal were not released, but a person with knowledge of the details said it was worth $25 million over five years - the same length of Jackson's contract and about the same deal Kerr signed with the Warriors. Fisher won three straight titles from 2000-02 on the Lakers teams led by O'Neal and Bryant, and helped them win again in 2009 and '10. He is respected among players around the league and was the president of the Players Association during the 2011 lockout. The 6-foot-1 Fisher was still a key contributor for the Thunder this season, helping them reach the Western Conference finals. Fisher, who is tied for third on the career list for 3-pointers in the NBA Finals, said thinking like a coach helped him play so long despite never being the most athletic or talented player. And now, like Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, he is prepared to make the leap right from the court to the bench without any coaching experience on any level. They Knicks won titles in 1970 and 1973, when Jackson was a player in the organization, but have had little postseason success in this century. Fisher, dressed sharply in a brown suit and purple shirt, believes he and Jackson can bring winning back to New York. "We know without a doubt that we can re-establish what that means, what that is," Fisher said. Fisher said he likes the triangle but would run what was best for the team. Jackson said he would always be available to help. The Knicks hope the duo can reach a group that admittedly tuned Woodson out at times. And perhaps can help persuade Carmelo Anthony, who can become a free agent in July, to remain in New York. Fisher, a former first-round pick from Arkansas Little-Rock, will certainly give New York a credibility that only champions can bring. "That's why I'm here," Fisher said. "That's why I took advantage of this opportunity, to be a part of that process." Tue, 10 Jun 2014 18:24:00 +0000
Letarte gets Earnhardt in a groove in final season
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) It took Steve Letarte 51 races to return Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Victory Lane, where the duo celebrated at Michigan in 2012 a turning point in their pairing. Letarte, a career Hendrick Motorsports employee, had been tasked with rebuilding the confidence in NASCAR's most popular driver and teaching him how to win again. The confidence part wasn't difficult - it took discipline, raised expectations and a schedule Earnhardt was expected to follow. The winning? Well, it didn't come as often as driver and crew chief would like. Earnhardt didn't win again in 2012 or all of 2013. His next victory didn't come to this year, the season-opening Daytona 500. But, he added a second win last Sunday at Pocono, and now heads his weekend back to Michigan International Speedway, site of his first victory with Letarte two years ago, in the midst of his first multi-win season in a decade. The irony is that the success is finally coming as he and Letarte are set to split. Letarte announced in January this year would be his last with Hendrick Motorsports and as Earnhardt's crew chief. He's moving into an analyst role with NBC and will be in the television booth when the network takes over a portion of the NASCAR schedule next year. Letarte, despite the success he's finally achieving with Earnhardt, is at peace with the decision. "You guys only get to see the great stuff, which is a win at Daytona and a win (at Pocono)," he said. "But Saturday of Kansas, my little girl had her first communion and I was in Kansas. When moments like that happen it reaffirms why I made my decision." Letarte was 15 when he became a part-time employee with Hendrick Motorsports in 1995. In the 20 seasons since, he progressed through the organization and became one of the team's veteran crew chiefs. He also got married and had two children, but the demands of his job prevented him from being the husband and father he wanted to be. "This is my life, this is how I was raised, but I chose ... to have a family, and when I made that decision, that was not a casual decision, that was a decision for forever," he said. "As much as I love my job, they have to come first." Earnhardt understands that Letarte must move on for his own personal reasons, and he's genuinely happy for his crew chief - "he's going to be able to spend a ton of time with his kids, play as much golf as he wants to play. He's getting a steal compared to what he's doing right now." But he didn't feel that way last November when Letarte told him after the season finale that he was leaving the team at the end of 2014. "I broke down," Earnhardt admitted. "It was the hardest thing to have to hear, but at the same time, I thought, `Well, we've got one year together, and as much fun as we have and as good a friends as we are, I feel lucky to have one more year."' So their goal is to put together the strongest season possible, to win races and make a run at the Sprint Cup title. "It would be very disappointing and sad if this was his last year and we struggled," Earnhardt said. "But we've won two races, and I won my first Pocono race, he won his first Daytona 500. It seems a bit storybook, and we're having a real thrill." --- NO TIME TO PARTY: Ed Carpenter got very little time to celebrate following his IndyCar Series victory at Texas last Saturday night. The owner/driver returned to Indianapolis early Sunday morning, and was back to work a day later. Carpenter and his Ed Carpenter Racing crew were on the road first thing Monday, headed to Iowa Speedway for the first of three test sessions in nine days. The team was also scheduled to test at Milwaukee and Pocono. "I guess there is no rest for us right now," said Carpenter, who led 90 laps at Texas in grabbing his first win of the season. "We need to use this break to get ready for the next oval races. It's tough on the whole team after more than a month of work. But that is why we love to go racing." Carpenter turned over his car this season to Mike Conway for races on road and street courses. Conway took the team to Victory Lane in April at Long Beach, and Carpenter made his season debut as driver at Indianapolis, where he won the pole for the Indy 500. A crash ended his race early, but he rebounded two weeks later to score his first career victory at Texas. --- LE MANS COVERAGE: Bob Varsha will lead Fox Sports coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of10 on-air personalities and analysts assigned by the network to the race. Varsha, a veteran race broadcaster, will be host and play-by-play announcer when coverage of the world's most famous sports car endurance race begins Saturday morning. Brian Till will take over for Varsha when the on-air teams rotate in multi-hour segments in similar fashion to the multi-driver entries. Analysis will be provided by Calvin Fish, Dorsey Schroeder, Tommy Kendall and Darren Law. Fox Sports has tabbed Justin Bell, Jamie Howe, Andrew Marriott and Greg Creamer to report. "Some events need no hype whatsoever; think The Masters, the Kentucky Derby, the Tour de France," said Varsha. "Le Mans is one of those. Dale Earnhardt once told me it was the one race he wanted to do outside of NASCAR, and I'm sure Mario Andretti would tell you that, for all he achieved, Le Mans was the one that got away. That's how the drivers see it. It's that big a challenge, and that rewarding." --- MUSTANG TO PACE FIELD: Ford will continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mustang this weekend when the iconic pony car makes its debut as an official pace car in Sunday's race at Michigan. The field will be led to the green flag by a 2015 Mustang GT fastback driven by Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Co. president of The Americas. "With its proximity to the Motor City, Michigan International Speedway is a showcase for the auto industry," said Chantel Lenard, Ford's director of U.S. marketing. "To have Mustang, a brand born of racing, in this special anniversary year, leading some of the world's best drivers to the green flag, is special." Built in Flat Rock, Michigan, the 2015 Mustang is all-new from the ground up. The sixth-generation, rear-wheel-drive car has the long hood and short rear decklid proportions of its most iconic predecessors, as well as a low, wide stance. --- SPIRIT AWARD: Lynda Petty, the late wife of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, was named the first quarter recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Spirit Award. Petty was one of the founding members of the Racing Wives Auxiliary, a charitable organization that provided assistance to those in need within the racing community. The group is now known as the Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports, and seeks to enrich the lives of women, children and families through various education and wellness programs. Petty died in March at 72 after a long illness. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are chosen, and an overall winner is selected by a vote of the NMPA membership. Also, The Petty Family Foundation this week announced it will use the numerous donations made in Petty's memory to contribute to four organizations. --- THEY SAID IT: "Some of the stuff the haters say is the funniest stuff. The real short ones, like `You suck,' those are the best ones. I just favorite them and block them," Dale Earnhardt Jr., who joined Twitter in February, on how he handles hateful tweets. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 20:57:00 +0000
LSU S Mills indefinitely suspended after arrest
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU starting safety Jalen Mills has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by coach Les Miles after the junior's arrest on a battery charge early Wednesday morning. A probable cause document states that a woman says Mills punched her in the mouth on May 4 in his apartment. She says she fell to the ground and was briefly unconscious. Mills was contacted by police on May 29 and he told them he was in Houston and would return to Baton Rouge on June 9, the first day of summer school and football workouts. A June 10 appointment was set for Mills to meet with the police, but he did not make the meeting. After police were unsuccessful in contacting Mills by telephone, a warrant for his arrest was issued. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 19:55:00 +0000
Cavs taking close look at Kansas prospect Embiid
CLEVELAND (AP) As they search for a new coach, the Cavaliers are taking a close look at an intriguing player. Kansas center Joel Embiid worked out Wednesday for the Cavs, who are trying to decide what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in this month's NBA draft. The 7-foot Embiid, who has only been playing basketball for a few years, arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday night for his visit, the team confirmed. The Cavs are eager to put Embiid thorough medical physical as there have been concerns about the 18-year-old's back. Embiid missed the tail end of his freshman season with the Jayhawks because of what was described as a stress fracture in his lower back. Embiid did not attend the league's pre-draft combine last month in Chicago, and his medical records were not released by the school. The Cavs don't want to take any chances with a selection after last year's top pick, forward Anthony Bennett, struggled during his first year after undergoing shoulder surgery. Embiid is the first of the top prospects to visit the Cavs, who are expected to meet with Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins and Duke forward Jabari Parker. "Having fun in Cleveland," Embiid wrote on his Twitter account, with a photo of a Cavaliers' T-shirt. In the meantime, the Cavs are in the fourth week of their coaching search. The team has had interviews with at least six known candidates, the most recent being former Cleveland All-Star guard and current Charlotte assistant Mark Price. The Cavs are expected to have a second meeting with Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry, who previously worked with Cleveland general manager David Griffin in Arizona. Ideally, the Cavs would like to have a new coach in place by the June 26 draft, but have not put a timetable on hiring their third coach in three years. Griffin has said he would be open to listening to trade offers for the top pick. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 19:41:00 +0000
Orioles' Machado suspended for 5 games, appeals
BALTIMORE (AP) Manny Machado figured he might be suspended for intentionally throwing his bat on the field while at the plate. What the Baltimore Orioles third baseman didn't expect is that the punishment would be so harsh. Machado received a five-game suspension and an undisclosed fine Tuesday for tossing his bat in Sunday's game against Oakland. He has appealed the suspension, which was slated to start immediately. Machado was in the starting lineup Tuesday against Boston. "I don't want to be down for five days," Machado said. "We're just going to go ahead and get that down, and that's it. Need to try to help out this team in any way." Machado let his bat fly toward third base after swinging at a pitch from Fernando Abad in the eighth inning. The bat-toss came during a plate appearance in which Abad threw successive high-and-tight pitches. After the bat went soaring, both benches emptied. Machado and Abad were ejected. Abad was fined but not suspended Tuesday. "I don't really care," Machado said. "He's part of the Oakland A's organization and I'm a Baltimore Oriole. I know what I did and he knows what he did. We both got to pay the consequences." Machado, however, isn't prepared to sit out five games - yet. His hearing could take place next week in New York, or he could drop the appeal as soon as Wednesday. "We'll see what tomorrow brings," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday. "I think right now he's going to appeal and take 24 hours to think about the next step. "Plus, probably the most important thing for him right now is make sure he puts the club in a position in case we make an adjustment in our roster. It's a little short notice to get somebody here if he started (the suspension) tonight." Machado apologized to his teammates Monday for twice losing his temper during the three-game series against Oakland. On Friday night, he yelled in the face of Oakland's Josh Donaldson after the third baseman tagged him on the chest, knocking Machado off his feet. The dugouts also emptied after that confrontation. "It's been a frustrating last couple days," Machado said. "We're just going to try to put this behind us." Showalter agreed. "He's a 21-year-old young man that made a mistake, and he's done the right thing since then to move forward with it the way it's supposed to be done," the manager said. "Now there are some more steps involved before we can put it behind us." Orioles first baseman Chris Davis thought it might be prudent for Machado to accept the sentence and turn the page. "Personally, I would kind of let it go away. I'm not in his shoes. It's easy to say that on the outside looking in," Davis said. "You screw up, you have to deal with the consequences. He'll deal with it and move on. We've already moved on." Tue, 10 Jun 2014 22:04:00 +0000
Former Cy Young winner Bob Welch dies at 57
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Bob Welch, the 1990 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Oakland Athletics and the last major leaguer to win at least 25 games in a season, has died. He was 57. Welch died late Monday night at his Southern California home in Seal Beach, the team said Tuesday. Police said officers responded to a call for medical aid and found Welch dead in the bathroom area. Authorities have not released the cause of death. The coroner was awaiting toxicology test results, which can take eight to 12 weeks, said Lt. Jeffrey Hallock, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Welch was known best for his famous battles with Reggie Jackson in the World Series and alcohol addiction. The two-time All-Star was an admitted alcoholic early in his career and spent time in rehabilitation. He later co-authored a book with George Vecsey about his addiction titled "Five O'Clock Comes Early: A Ballplayer's Battle With Alcoholism." "The fact is, I'm crazy when I'm drunk," Welch said in the book. "There's every chance I would have been dead by now if I was drinking." The right-hander played on five teams that reached the World Series - 1978, 1981, 1988, 1989 and 1990 - and won two titles, one in 1981 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and another in 1989 with the A's. Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten called Welch "one of the greatest competitors to wear the Dodger uniform." "Welchie was a special guy. We lost a really good friend," said Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a longtime teammate with the Dodgers. In Oakland, Welch figured prominently on teams that won three straight AL championships from 1988-90, including the club that swept the San Francisco Giants in the earthquake-interrupted World Series. "This is a sad day for the entire A's organization," general manager Billy Beane said. "Those of us who knew Bob as a teammate and a friend will miss him greatly." Welch finished 211-146 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 seasons with the Dodgers (1978-87) and Athletics (1988-94). He also was the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks when they won the 2001 World Series and had served as a special instructor for the A's in recent years. "He had a great arm, but what made him so special at a young age was the way he could command the corners with his velocity," Scioscia said. "He was a great talent, but that wasn't really what he was about. Bobby was a guy who, every time there was a roadblock in the way, he got over it. He didn't take the easiest path, but he was a solid guy." New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, the former Oakland GM who acquired Welch for the A's after the 1987 season, said Welch would be missed. "He was an interesting character, really sort of hyperkinetic," Alderson said. "He was a super guy and a very likable, if not loveable, guy." Welch was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 1977 out of Eastern Michigan. His most memorable moment for Los Angeles was against the Yankees in the 1978 World Series, when the rookie struck out Jackson with two runners on base to end Game 2. "I was stone sober, too," Welch said in his book. "I hadn't gotten around to drinking before a game, particularly a World Series game - although, given time, I would have." Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes, a former teammate, recalled the battle with Jackson fondly before the team played in Cincinnati on Tuesday night. "I don't know if it gets any greater than that," Lopes said. Welch won the AL Cy Young Award after going 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 1990 for Oakland. His 27 wins tied him with Steve Carlton in 1972 for the most in a season since Denny McClain's 31 victories in 1968. "He will always be a significant part of our franchise's history," A's President Michael Crowley said. Several current A's players also offered condolences on Twitter. "Devastated to learn of Bob Welch's passing," left-hander Sean Doolittle wrote. "The A's organization lost not only one of its best pitchers, but one of its best people." No one answered the door at Welch's home Tuesday, which had been sealed with a sticker from the Orange County coroner. Neighbor Alma Purcha said she woke up to find police cars outside the home several blocks from the Pacific Ocean. She said Welch divided his time between Arizona and Seal Beach. She last saw him with his son and daughter Friday, when they exchanged pleasantries. Welch was born in Detroit and was lauded by the school he led to two trips to the College World Series. Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke called the pitcher one of the university's "greatest ambassadors." "The one thing Bobby definitely loved is this game of baseball," Scioscia said. "He understood pitching, and I know he did a great job for the Diamondbacks, and working for the Oakland organization was a natural for him because he had so many tremendous seasons there. I know he really connected with the kids and had a lot to give." The A's said Welch is survived by sons Dylan, 25, and Riley, 23; daughter Kelly, 18; and former wife Mary Ellen. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:34:00 +0000
Browns not worried about Manziel's partying
BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns aren't worried about Johnny Manziel running out of bounds off the field. Or floating on pool rafts. After a weekend of partying in Texas, where he was photographed floating on an inflatable swan while drinking champagne in a nightclub pool, Manziel was on the field Tuesday as the Browns opened a mandatory three-day minicamp. The team is not making their popular Heisman Trophy-winning rookie quarterback - or starter Brian Hoyer - available to the media this week. Manziel has left Cleveland each of the past three weekends, first taking a trip to Las Vegas, then to Los Angeles for a seminar with other rookies and then to his home state, where in addition to having some fun, he got drafted by the San Diego Padres and attended Game 2 of the NBA finals in San Antonio, sitting near Miami's bench while wearing a retro Cavaliers' cap. Following practice, Browns first-year coach Mike Pettine said he's not worried about how his young QB spends his free time. "I'm not concerned," Pettine said. "I would become concerned if it was something criminal and I would be concerned if it affected his job. There's a lot of our guys, if when they leave here if they were followed around, you'd get some very similar pictures. I don't know about an inflatable swan, but you'd still get some pictures." Manziel has said he intends to keep living his life to the fullest, and Pettine doesn't feel the need to monitor the 21-year-old's every move. "The philosophy here is that we're not going to micro-manage the guys," Pettine said. "I was involved in an event this weekend, and if there were some cameras at certain times it probably wouldn't have been the most flattering. It was a group of coaches out and we had a good time, but we were responsible. When it becomes irresponsible or it becomes part of breaking the law or it's something we feel is a potential problem, we'll step in." Manziel is currently listed as Cleveland's backup behind Hoyer. The two will compete during training camp next month, when each pass will be dissected. The dueling QBS are already under scrutiny. During Tuesday's workout, Manziel took snaps with Cleveland's first-team offense as Hoyer continues to be limited as a precaution while recovering from offseason knee surgery. When he was on the field, Hoyer showed his ability to read the defense and release the ball more quickly than Manziel, who is still learning the nuances of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system and adjusting to the speedier pro game. That's not to say Manziel didn't show progress. "He's getting more comfortable in the huddle, calling the plays," Pettine said. "I think he's got a very nice touch with the deep ball. We've added some of the zone-read stuff that Kyle's run with RG3 in Washington and he's done a nice job handling that. He makes improvement every day." As for Manziel's extra-curricular activities, his teammates seem to have his back. Safety Donte Whitner was asked if there's a need to tell Johnny Football to tone down his act. "Yeah, but I don't think he's out of hand with it," Whitner said. "If he's not out every weekend, he's just a young guy. So going to Vegas, I probably would've been there with Johnny too." Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins hasn't seen any reason to think Manziel isn't taking his job seriously. "I don't know what Johnny does on the weekends. But it's none of my business," he said. "He's out here working his butt off. I'm not keeping tabs on where he goes Friday through Sunday. Johnny works hard, and that's all anybody cares about." Pettine understands there's a bright spotlight on Manziel, who seems to relish the hype. In being so public with his actions, Manziel could be placing himself in precarious situations, but Pettine is confident the former Texas A&M star can handle it. "I think it's something he's used to," Pettine said. "I think that he understands that that (publicity) comes with the territory, but I also think he's a young man that he doesn't want his lifestyle or how he lives it to be affected by social media. That he's not going to (say) `Hey, I'm not leaving my house.' "I don't think he wants to be that way and it just goes back to we're not going to micromanage him until we feel that it is an issue, and if it's not affecting him on the field, then I don't think that it's anything we need to address at this point." NOTES: Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon continues to practice as the team awaits word on a possible league suspension. ... LT Joe Thomas was full-go after being limited in recent OTAs. ... Pettine confirmed rookie LG Joel Bitonio injured his ankle but said he is expected to be ready for training camp. Tue, 10 Jun 2014 21:00:00 +0000
Falcons' Weatherspoon to miss 2014 season
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon ruptured his Achilles tendon on Tuesday and will miss the 2014 season. Weatherspoon suffered the injury while running under the supervision of the team's medical staff. Weatherspoon had been held out of the organized team activities as he was continuing his recovery from a foot injury that limited him to only seven games in 2013. The loss of Weatherspoon, the team's first-round pick from Missouri in 2010, is a blow to the Falcons, whose disappointing 4-12 finish in 2013 was marked by a string of injuries. Weatherspoon has eight sacks and two interceptions in his first four seasons. Weatherspoon has managed to play a full 16 games in only one season, 2011, when he had 80 tackles and a career-high four sacks. Coach Mike Smith said in a statement released by the team on Tuesday night Weatherspoon is expected to make a full recovery following surgery. "During Sean's run today with our medical staff, he suffered an injury," Smith said. "We sent Sean to the doctor for some additional testing and evaluation and unfortunately the results showed that he ruptured his Achilles tendon. "Sean had been working extremely hard to get back on the field, but regrettably he will miss the entire 2014 season. He will have a procedure done in the near future and we expect him to make a full recovery." Weatherspoon's 2013 injury forced the Falcons to rely on two undrafted rookies, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow. Worrilow led the team in tackles and Bartu was third. Before Weatherspoon's latest injury was disclosed, Smith said Tuesday that Bartu and Worrilow have matured in the offseason. "Two guys who ended up playing a bunch of snaps for us last year have improved and matured," Smith said, referring to Worrilow and Bartu. "If you would have told me at this time last year that one was going to be our leading tackler and the other was going to play 70 percent of the snaps I would have said `I don't think so.' "They are a much more mature group. We went through some growing pains with them last year that are going to pay dividends moving forward." The Falcons added four linebackers late in this year's NFL draft. Notre Dame's Prince Shembo was selected late in the fourth round. Syracuse's Marquis Spruill was the team's fifth-round pick. Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood and South Dakota's Tyler Starr were seventh-round picks. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 01:30:00 +0000
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