Wednesday, February 25, 2009


SIR ALLEN STANFORD is a name Americans are only just becoming familiar with. But, over on the other side of the pond, Stanford has been making regular appearances on the front page of the tabloids.

Stanford has become as notorious in Britain as Bernie Madoff is in the United States, mainly through his involvement with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Only last summer, the Texan billionaire, who is being accused of an $8 billion fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission, was hailed as the savior of English cricket.

Stanford landed his black and silver branded helicopter at Lord’s in London to make millionaires of England’s cricketers.

He agreed to support five Twenty20 (short-form) matches between the Stanford Super Stars – made up of international cricketers from the West Indies – and the England Test team at $20 million a pop.

The first “Stanford Challenge” took place in Antigua on November 1 and resulted in a crushing victory for the host nation.

But of far more interest to the editors of Britain’s “red top” newspapers were the pictures of Stanford bouncing the pregnant wife of the England wicketkeeper on his knee.

Apparently, some of the England team were upset about Stanford’s regular visits to their inner sanctum – i.e the dressing room.

It was then that some of England’s former cricketing greats started to voice their concern about whether the sport’s association with Stanford was entirely ethical.

So imagine the reaction last week when it was revealed that all their fears about Stanford’s possibly sleazy past look like coming true.

England officials stumped by Texan tycoon

There were calls for Giles Clarke, chairman of the ECB, to resign. Clarke, however, is determined to ride out the storm.

“We have to raise our monies from all kinds of place. Sport cannot exist without money,” he said.

“The issue at the time was ‘Can he (Stanford) pay?’ When somebody offers those sorts of sums of money you want to be completely satisfied he’s going to be capable of paying. He actually did pay and he was capable of paying.”

While Clarke insist the ECB conducted due diligence, the shocks waves of the Stanford affair are still being felt throughout the sports world.

New York Yankees baseball stars Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady had their assets frozen while Phillies reliever Scott Eyre says he’s “broke.”

England footballer Michael Owen and Fijian golfer Vijay Singh are other sportsmen believed to have been victims of Stanford’s Ponzi scheme.

As in the case of Madoff, the list is sure to grow in the coming weeks as 58-year-old Stanford, who holds joint US and Antiguan citizenship, is a flamboyant figure with links to prominent politicians and sports stars.

Stanford was tracked down to Fredericksburg, Virigina, last Thursday. For once, his personal photographer was not with him.

Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

Monday, February 23, 2009


IN HIS ABSENCE, Padraig Harrington won the Oscar for Best Supporting Golfer. But it’s no surprise that the PGA TOUR is rolling out the red carpet for the return of its main box office attraction this week.

Much has happened since Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open Championship on one leg at Torrey Pines last June before hobbling off to have reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

Affable Irishman Harrington, and evergreen Aussie Greg Norman, have provided a few interesting sub-plots.

There’s an old adage in sports that no one player is bigger than the game itself. But in the case of Tiger Woods and golf, it comes pretty close.

Not even a rich man’s sport like golf has escaped the ravages of the recession. And the American taxpayer is increasingly underwriting the PGA TOUR tournament circuit.

No fewer than eight of the Tour’s 2009 events feature primary corporate partners that have received a combined total of $105.2 billion in federal bailout funds.

U.S. Bank has already announced that it will end its sponsorship of the old Greater Milwaukee Open after this year’s tournament in July.

And the PGA TOUR was dealt another blow last week by the news that the Stanford Financial Group, chaired by sports-loving Texas financier Sir Allen Stanford, is facing charges of “massive fraud” by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Stanford Group sponsors the $6 million St Jude Championship, played in Memphis, Tennessee, in June, as well as the LPGA’s season-ending Stanford Financial Tour Championship in Houston.

The bad news does not end there. A total of 22 PGA title sponsorships are due to expire next year and without Tiger, TV viewing figures are inevitably down.

A massive 55% fewer people watched the thrilling showdown between Harrington and Sergio Garcia in the final round of the PGA Championship last August compared to the 2007 event, won by Woods.

TV ratings plummet during Woods’ absence

So no one was happier to hear the news of Woods’ return in this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Arizona, than PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem.

It seems Tiger’s fellow professionals are also happy, even though they realize his presence significantly reduces their own chance of winning.

Phil Mickelson, the man in form after winning the Northern Trust Open on Sunday, summed up what Woods means to professional golf.

“The reason why we all want Tiger back is because he drives the game of golf,” explained Mickelson. “He drives the television ratings, the sponsors need him in their events and the fans turn out to see him.

“We’re very lucky in golf to have the No. 1 athlete in the world. I never thought that would happen. We had some of the greatest players in history, whether it was Ben Hogan or Jack Nicklaus, but nobody ever reached the status of the premier athlete in the world before.

“He does so much for us on a national level here and on an international level throughout the world. We’ve missed him.”

Every sport needs rivalries and it will be great to see Woods and Mickelson go head-to-head again in the coming months.

Only time will tell whether seven months away from the game has done any damage to Tiger physically, or whether the birth of his second child will diminish his desire to win trophies.

One thing, however, is for sure. PGA TOUR officials will be keeping everything crossed that in the words of William Blake, it’s still Tiger, Tiger burning bright.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


“I’M COMING here to make a difference.” Those were the words of David Beckham when he signed a five-year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007.

Now, after one injury-hit season in Major League Soccer and just 30 appearances, “Becks” wants to turn his back on America in favor of Italian giants AC Milan.

It’s indisputable that Beckham has raised the media profile of soccer in the States. He’s the one player who can rub shoulders with A-Rod and Kobe on ESPN’s SportsCenter program.

There’s an interesting article about the 33-year-old Englishman in today’s New York Times under the headline: His Wish to Exit Hurts, but Beckham Has Helped. Has he really?

Yes, Beckham has brought a buzz to MLS, helped increase attendances and boosted the profile of the league around the world.

Don Garber, the commissioner for MLS, said that even his hiking guide in a small Chinese village was aware of the Galaxy last summer because of Beckham.

The league expects to increase its number of teams from 15 to 18 by 2011 and, by the end of next year, nine stadiums specifically built for soccer are scheduled to be operational.

But one can also argue that Beckham’s desire to cut short his stay in LA will do more harm than good.

During his short loan spell with Milan, Beckham has discovered that it’s much easier being a star when you are surrounded by other quality players.

Star set to quit Galaxy after just one season

He also knows that he has a much better chance of impressing Fabio Capello, the current England coach, in Capello’s native country of Italy rather than the USA.

Beckham playing his football in the MLS is a bit like a Triple Crown winner coming out of retirement to compete in a claiming race at Aqueduct. 

Considering the fanfare that greeted his arrival in the States, his departure after such a brief period of time would be a major PR setback for MLS as it enters its 14th season, not to mention the negative effect it will have on the Galaxy and their crowds.

David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California, is quoted by the Times as saying: “Beckham at least rang the doorbell and a lot of people answered.”

But what good is it getting someone interested in a product if you can’t deliver on your promise? Next time, the customer won’t bother opening the door.

The simple truth is MLS needs Beckham more than Beckham needs the MLS.

Juan Pablo Ángel, the New York Red Bulls’ Colombian striker and perhaps the player with the second-highest profile, is not in the same league as Beckham.

Soccer is always going to struggle against American Football and baseball this side of the pond. Those two sports, with their constant interruptions between plays and innings, are so much more advertiser-friendly.

It’s encouraging that viewing figures for international matches are increasing. But MLS is still lights years behind the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga.

Without players with the charisma of Beckham, it always will be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


IF ALEX RODRIGUEZ seriously wanted to draw a line under the A-Roid controversy and move on, then he struck out looking in the first inning in Tampa today.

A-Rod was given the chance to come clean in front of the assembled media and elaborate on his “loosey-goosey” interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons a week ago.

Instead, he and the New York Yankees fudged the issue by staging a press conference that was nothing short of a sham.

By refusing to allow any follow-up questions from the reporters, the Yankees effectively enabled A-Rod to dodge every question and stick to the party line fed him by his agent, Scott Boras, and his PR advisors.

If A-Rod really believes this is the end of the matter, he’s living in cloud cuckoo land.

So many questions remain unanswered. Who was the cousin who supplied him with the steroids from the Dominican Republic?

Why did he continue taking steroids for three years, injecting himself twice a month on average, when he claims he couldn’t tell whether they were having any effect?

Can he possibly believe that he was doing anything other than cheating and how can we believe that he has not experimented with any other performance-enhancing drug since 2003?

Yankees star fouls off every question

Joel Sherman of the New York Post summed up A-Rod perfectly when he wrote in his column: “No one thinks about himself more and knows himself less.”

Sherman added: “Rodriguez projects a disingenuous quality that – perhaps more than anything – gives so many people a negative feeling about him.

“There is always a sense that Rodriguez is putting on a show; that he either is not in full touch with himself or that he is always running a con designed to fool you and elevate him.”

From the moment he opened his press conference by reading a prepared statement – a statement he clearly didn’t prepare himself – he came across as exactly that: disingenuous.

He was obviously told to keep repeating the “young and stupid” line and insist that all he wants to do is “move on” with his life.

Yes, it’s unfair that so far Rodriguez’s name has been the only one revealed of the 104 players who tested positive for PHDs in 2003.

Yes, the reporters should be knocking down the door of Major League Baseball and the Feds demanding to know how and why the news was leaked to Selena Roberts of

But he owes it to himself and the paying public to provide honest and open answers to the many outstanding questions.

Until he does, he won’t be allowed a minute’s rest by the media, who will be seeking to further expose him as the A-Fraud he quite patently is. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009


MICHAEL PHELPS is considering a boycott of the 2012 Olympics in London. If we are denied another opportunity to see the greatest Olympian of all time in competition, we only have ourselves – and the British tabloid press – to blame.

Just consider this. Alex Rodriguez admits taking performance- enhancing drugs for three years from the age of 26 to 28.

The consequence? Major League Baseball is powerless to punish him as testing was not officially introduced until 2004.

The owners of the New York Yankees are “not angry at all” with A-Rod and have no intention of reneging on his 10-year, $275 million contract. As far as we know, neither do his sponsors, who include Nike, Pepsi and Topps.

Michael Phelps trains tirelessly for four years leading up to Beijing Olympics, where he wins a record eight gold medals.

When he returns from China, Phelps unwinds by taking a puff of marijuana from a bong at a party and a photograph of the act is published on the front page of Britain’s leading Sunday newspaper, the News of the World.

The consequence? Phelps is suspended from all competition for three months by U.S.A swimming and is dropped by sponsor Kellogg’s because he is no longer “consistent with the image of Kellogg.”

Now we hear he is being pursued by the South Carolina police force, who are seeking to make a case against the swimmer.

Don’t get me wrong. If Tony the Tiger was caught with his snout in a bong, I’m sure he would receive a frosty reception from Kellogg’s too. But does the punishment really fit the crime?

Punishment surely doesn’t fit the crime

While A-Rod was seeking to gain an unfair advantage over his fellow professionals, one that has led to untold riches, amateur Phelps was using cannabis for recreational purposes. 

Let’s not forget either that, at 23, he’s ten years younger than A-Rod. How many of us can hold our hands up and say that we never experimented with “weed” at the same age? 

He still qualifies in the categories of young, stupid and naïve. At 33, A-Rod does not. He quiet clearly has neither the brain nor the shame to cope with fame. 

He also has a long way to go to prove himself as a true New York Yankee – a player who can produce his best form on the baseball field when it really matters.

It remains to be seen whether Phelps decides to try to add to his total of 14 gold medals in London in three years’ time.

He is sure to come under intense scrutiny from the British tabloids, always keen to find flaws in supposedly squeaky-clean sportsmen.

If he decides he wants to keep his private life just that, I, for one, will understand.

Yes, he used bad judgment. But in the court of public opinion, can we really put his “crime” in the same league as the baseball cheats?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


IT WAS meant to be a match made in heaven. But, like 50 percent of new marriages in the USA, it has ended in divorce. After just six months.

Fortunately for the New York Jets, their breakup with Brett Favre has been nowhere near as messy or emotional as the split with his partner of 17 years, the Green Bay Packers.

This time, there were no tears or long goodbyes. Favre simply instructed his agent to inform the Jets that he won’t be coming back this year to play for new coach Rex Ryan.

At the age of 39, one of the most recognizable and flamboyant quarterbacks in the National Football League has (for the second time) decided to hang up his cleats.

The good news for the Jets is that it will give them more room to maneuver within the salary cap and possibly paves the way for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to reunite with Ryan.

The bad news for Gang Green is they are now without a proven player in the most important position on the field. Of the three quarterbacks on their roster – Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge – only Clemens has started an NFL game.

Favre, of course, will be remembered for his exploits and achievements with the Packers, whom he led to one Super Bowl title against the New England Patriots in 1997.

A ten-time Pro Bowler, and the Associated Press’s NFL MVP on three occasions, Favre insists he has no regrets about his brief stint with the Jets.

He said: “Mike [Tannenbaum] and Woody [Johnson], as well as the entire organization, have been nothing short of outstanding. My teammates were a pleasure to play with. Eric [Mangini] could not have been any better. I enjoyed playing for him. My time with the Jets was short, but I’m honored to be given that chance.”

Favre joined the Jets in the hope that he could have one last shot at winning a second Super Bowl.

Jets fans won’t be heartbroken by news

When they were 8-3, it looked possible. At the very least, the Jets seemed certain to make the playoffs.

But it all started to go wrong when they suffered a shocking 34-17 defeat at home to the Denver Broncos.

That was followed by a 24-14 loss in San Francisco and although the Jets did manage to record a somewhat fortuitous victory over the Buffalo Bills, they lost four of their last five games to finish 9-7 and miss out on the playoffs to the Miami Dolphins.

Favre completed 343 of 522 attempted passes and threw 22 touchdowns. But the most telling statistic was the number of interceptions – also 22.

Jets fans are still debating how much of the blame for their team’s demise was down to Favre – and how much was down to his teammates and Mangini’s coaching.

The answer is probably a combination of all three. There can be no doubt that Favre was too cavalier with the football. But then, he always has been.

His arrival – and the fanfare with which it was greeted – undoubtedly caused some jealously in the dressing room. By the last month of the season, the Jets were divided and disunited.

Mangini gave Favre so much rope that he was eventually hung by it. He paid the ultimate price with his job. Only time will tell whether he can find redemption in Cleveland.

Now Favre has decided that a second season under the intense spotlight of the New York media is not for him. The majority of Jets fans, unlike their Green Bay counterparts, probably won’t be heartbroken by the news.

But is this really goodbye? What are the odds against Brett having a change of heart later this year and coming out of retirement to play for another team. Stranger things have happened!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


PETER GAMMONS is one of the most respected writers in baseball, but after the way he handled the Alex Rodriguez “exclusive” on ESPN, I suggest he sticks to post-match sound bites in future.

In fairness to Gammons, Team A-Rod chose him and his station for a reason. Naturally, they wanted a carefully choreographed interview to limit the damage caused by their client’s “stupidity” and “naivety” in taking performance-enhancing drugs.

An interview during which the words “performance-enhancing”, “drugs” and “steroids” were taboo.

As Abraham Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Judging by the reaction to the A-Rod interview, some people are actually buying his story. Even though I’m an ardent fan of the New York Yankees, I’m not among them. There are far too many flaws in it.

Are we really supposed to believe that after taking steroids for three years from 2001 to 2003, he had a sudden revelation in bed one day that what he was doing was wrong?

How can we be sure that he hasn’t been taking drugs throughout his career and, since 2003, has managed to avoid detection?

He lied to Katie Couric during his 60 Minutes interview in December, 2007. So why should we believe a word he says now?

ESPN’s A-Rod exclusive a sham

His explanation? “I was lying to myself.” Hold on a second, Alex. I thought you said you saw the light in 2004?

Two other things really bother me about the Gammons interview. One is the fact that A-Rod evaded the question about who supplied him with the drugs while he was playing for the Texas Rangers. The other is that he denies any knowledge of what he was taking.

As one of his friends said: “Alex is so meticulous about what he eats and drinks and puts in his body, if there’s broccoli on his plate, he has to know where it was grown.”

Okay, so this all happened a few years ago, or so he says. But is an athlete so concerned with his shape and appearance really going to take an unknown substance that could have long-term effects? That’s a little hard to swallow.

Gammons failed to press him on either point. Surely the rest of the media won’t give him such an easy ride when they finally get to him.

A-Rod even had the gall to try to deflect attention from himself by attacking Selena Roberts, the reporter who first broke the story on Sports Illustrated’s website.

Roberts denies that she stalked A-Rod, saying: “I can tell you that long list of things he alleged were a complete fabrication.”

Any self-respecting journalist will go to the subject of their story and give him or her the chance to respond to the allegations.

It took Rodriguez five days to make that response. In the end, he came up with a story that had more holes in it than a string vest. And Gammons, it appears, is the latest to be taken in by A-Fraud.

Monday, February 9, 2009


ONE MONTH ago, no one had heard of Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III. Everyone had heard of A-Rod.

Two months ago, moms and dads were buying their sons a New York Yankees shirt displaying the number 13 and the name Alex Rodriguez for Christmas. No one was buying a “Sully is my copilot” T-shirt.

Fourteen months ago, during an interview on 60 Minutes, A-Rod looked Katie Couric in the eye and vowed that he had never even been tempted to use steroids. Last night, “Sully” Sullenberger told Couric that “we were simply doing the job we were trained to do” when he landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.

So who’s the real hero now?

While A-Rod is in hiding following the revelation on that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, Mr. Sullenberger is conducting interview after interview for the world’s media.

The difference is that while A-Rod seems to crave being in the limelight, Mr. Sullenberger is playing the role of reluctant hero.

Today, at City Hall, Mr. Sullenberger and his crew will receive the key to the city of New York.

Eighteen months ago, Mayor Bloomberg presented the key to A-Rod in honor of his 500th home run. If the reports are true – and the evidence looks pretty damning – he should be asked to hand it back.

What does your child want to be when he grows up…a television presenter, a pilot, a baseball player?

The last profession is the most lucrative but you may have to cheat if you want to reach the very top. Just ask A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens or Andy Pettitte.

Baseball sullied by latest drugs bust

Is it just coincidence that four of those six played for the Yankees? And just how many more A-Frauds are out there? Can we trust anyone or anything any more about America’s favorite pastime? Even players like Derek Jeter?

There are still 103 more names to come out from the list of those tested in 2003, the year before Major League Baseball introduced suspensions for those tested positive.

It’s grossly unfair that A-Rod’s name has been the only one leaked…so far. There can be no doubt he has been hung out to dry by his own union, who could have legally destroyed the tests.

But the fact remains that if the report is confirmed, baseball in general, and the New York Yankees in particular, have been dealt a major blow.

Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, was desperate for a Mr. Clean to surpass Bonds as the leading home run hitter of all time.

Okay, so A-Rod was no saint, despite his relationship with the Madonna, but at least his athletic ability and physical prowess was based on hard work rather than anabolic steroids…or so we thought. Now we learn that he not only allegedly cheated on his wife but on the game of baseball too.

The Yankees could have severed their link with A-Rod at the end of the 2007 season when he opted out of his contract. Instead, they re-signed him for $275 million and are committed to him for the next nine years.

This winter, they have invested $423 million in signing three top players in preparation for their first season in a new stadium.

2009 is supposed to be the year when the New York Yankees reestablish themselves as the top dogs in the American League East.

Perhaps they will invite Mr. Sullenberger to throw the first pitch on opening day at the new Yankee Stadium – Monday, April 6th. He's guaranteed to be cheered by the crowd. A-Rod might not be so lucky. Because he has given the many enemies of the Yankees yet another reason to despise the Evil Empire and all it stands for.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


OPINION among the fans is divided. Some feel Joe Torre’s book The Yankee Years violates baseball’s unwritten code of conduct. Others wonder what all the fuss is about.

Torre insists that the book is not borne out of bitterness. But, like most memoirs, it’s bound to upset someone.

In this case, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and star player Alex Rodriguez are most likely to be the aggrieved parties.

Cashman and the club’s hierarchy have refused to comment on the book. Will Torre be welcome back in the Bronx or will he be excommunicated?

Listening to him talk to Mike Francesca on WFAN talk radio, you get the impression he has no regrets.

“I went into this with my eyes wide open. I can’t concern myself with the way other people perceive it [the book],” he told Francesca.

Is he surprised by the reaction? “A little. I really don’t believe in my heart that any of the stuff I talked about is a violation.

“There was a lot of stuff I gave Tom (Verducci) that I didn’t allow them to print. What I allowed in the book I feel comfortable with.”

Former Yankee boss stands by “his” book

There is no more eloquent talker in baseball than Torre. As one writer put it, he has the ability to drop a bomb, then defuse it in the same instant.

He was his normal eloquent self during his interview with Francesa. But there were contradictions.

On the one hand, he says: “I wrote this book; I’m proud of this book. I wouldn’t change anything in it.”

On the other, he says: “Tom Verducci wrote the book. I really didn’t have any control over what he wrote.”

After years of dealing with the New York media, Torre has become the “artful dodger” during interviews.

He says he was “disappointed” rather than bitter about his split with the Yankees after 12 years. He deflects his implied criticism of A-Rod, saying he believes the penny will eventually drop and that he can win in New York.

On the subject of steroids, he claims: “I didn’t realize just how widespread it was until the Mitchell report came out.”

But he admits: “That doesn’t free me of the blame and responsibility that we all have to bear.”

One thing that’s not debatable is that Torre is going to make a packet from The Yankee Years. Whether it costs him his place in Monument Park remains to be seen.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


A DEAL is a deal is a deal. But in these current economic times, there are plenty of companies attempting to disprove that theory.

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal reports that Citigroup Inc. is exploring the possibility of pulling out of its $400 million marketing deal with the New York Mets.

Those of you who have driven through Flushing will have already seen the Citi Field sign perched on top of the Mets’ new stadium.

It was back in November, 2006, that Citigroup and the Mets announced a 20-year marketing and business partnership that included naming rights for the stadium, which opens in April.

Of course, back then, no one knew of the troubled times ahead for America’s financial institutions. Or, if they did, no one was doing anything about it.

Now, little more than two years on, Citigroup is in disarray and relying on government bailout money for its survival.

Which leads me to the $400 million question: Is it morally right that they should be allowed to financially support the Mets, and should the Mets be allowed to enforce the contract?

A Citigroup spokesman today insisted that no TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] money will be used for Citi Field or for marketing purposes.

Perhaps not directly, but how can that really be true when Citibank has already received a $25 billion rescue package from the U.S. Treasury Department?

Why Citigroup must back out of 20-year deal

Two congressmen – Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) – have written to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging him to push Citigroup to dissolve their deal with the Mets.

It may not be quite that simple. There are likely to be penalty clauses within the contract and David Howard, the Mets’ vice president for business affairs, is quoted as saying: “Citi are our partners and both side are going to live up to the agreement.

“Superficially, I understand the public’s reaction. But the reality is the TARP recipients were companies the federal government thought were vital to our economy. To continue doing business, they still need to advertise.”

A point well made and one that brings up a much wider issue. How much should companies relying on bailout money cut back on their advertising and marketing budgets?

The fact that certain baseball clubs, particularly the two in New York, continue to hand out multi-million dollar contracts like confetti, is hardly going to endear them to members of the public who are neither Mets nor Yankees fans.

Both clubs have relied heavily on taxpayers’ money to build their new stadiums. The Yankees have even had the cheek to ask for – and receive more – in the form of tax-exempt bonds after spending $423.5 million on signing three new players this winter.

There has already been public outrage over the bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch executives from bailout money and the CEO who spent $1,405 on a trashcan.

It’s high time Barack Obama and the White House got tough with the banks and told them to pull the plug on non-essential spending.

Unfortunately for the Mets, that should include naming rights for sports stadiums and Taxpayer Field.

Monday, February 2, 2009


MOST PUNDITS believe it’s only a matter of time before Roger Federer equals, then passes, Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slam tennis titles.

They’re probably right. But whereas it looked a certainty not so long ago, now there’s an element of doubt.

Federer had everything going for him in Melbourne. Rafael Nadal not only had to come through the longest match in Australian Open history in the semi-finals (5 hrs and 14 mins) but he also had one day less to prepare for the final.

That he still had the energy to beat Federer in five sets speaks volumes for his physical condition and mental strength. And the bad news for Federer is that it’s only going to get harder.

The Swiss is still only 27 but compare that to his main rivals in the world tennis rankings. Nadal is 22. Then there are two, hungry 21-year-olds: Brit Andy Murray and Serbian Novak Djokovic.

Federer is not just going to have work harder to reach Grand Slam finals but now there’s now more than one player who actually believes they can beat him.

There is no greater rivalry in sports than Federer v Nadal. Between them, they have won 15 of the last 16 Grand Slams. Federer has claimed nine, Nadal six.
But in head-to-head meetings, Nadal leads 13-6 and, perhaps more significantly, he’s won their last five matches.

Frustration mounts for Swiss in pursuit of record

We already know he has Federer’s measure on clay. Now, it seems, he can beat him on any surface – even grass.

Nadal will be heavily favored to win the next Grand Slam – the French Open at Roland Garros – so Federer will probably have to wait until Wimbledon for his next crack at Sampras’s record.

Nadal is convinced he will do it one day. But first, Federer will have to go away and analyze what went wrong in the fifth set, when his game fell apart. Could the iceman have cracked under the pressure?

“I definitely played a terrible fifth set,” he admitted. “I kind of handed it over to him.

“This is one of the matches in my career where I feel like I could have or should have won. But you can’t go through your whole life as a tennis player taking every victory that’s out there.

“You’ve got to live with those you don’t. But they hurt, even more so if you’re that close, like at Wimbledon or here at the Australian Open.”

But for Nadal, Federer would have long since broken the record and proved beyond any doubt that he is the greatest player to ever pick up a tennis racket.

However, the fact remains that Nadal has now beaten him in five Grand Slam finals. Federer has lost his aura of invincibility and, possibly, his best chance of joining Sampras in the record news.