Happy Monday everyone, here's my Top 5 for March 21, 2011 from Len Berman at ThatsSports.com.
1. Quick Hits
* We're down to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Butler and VCU are in, the Big East is out. Of the 11 Big East teams in the tourney, just two are left standing.
* There were 5.9 million entries in the ESPN bracket contest. After Friday, there were no perfect brackets left. One person has 15 of the 16 teams still alive.
* Mets owners go on the offensive. They file court papers claiming that the lawsuit brought against them by the Bernie Madoff trustee is a "work of fiction."
* Jury selection begins today in San Francisco in the Barry Bonds perjury trial.
* Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says baseball "has never been near this popular." He says they could draw a record 80 million fans this season.
* That was some pregame show. After a standoff with police a couple of hours before game time, a man with a knife is arrested on the court at the Staples Center in L.A. The tip-off for the game between the Clippers and Cavaliers was delayed 15 minutes.
2. The Pitts
You can hear the groaning coast to coast, especially those who chose Pittsburgh to win the Top 5 NCAA contest. There were two calls late in the game that you don't normally see. As a result, Butler pulled the stunning upset of the #1 seed. Two points. For those who say "let the kids play," if neither call was made, Butler still wins. And secondly, there's an old line in sports, "don't put yourself in the position of having a ref's call decide the game." So it came down to "referee roulette," and Pittsburgh lost. Credit their coach Jamie Dixon for taking the high road and not blaming the officials. Not every coach would have done it.
3. Bye Bye
The Mets released second baseman Luis Castillo and ate his $6-million contract. (Word is the Phillies have signed him to a minor-league deal.) And today they munched on Oliver Perez's $12 million. (Would anyone be interested in him?) That's $18 million of fan appeasement. In the fans minds, the two of them were the whipping boys for all that ails the Mets. So if talk radio didn't exist, would the outcome be the same? Has all that fan venom shaped the roster? Just wondering.
4. Win Some Lose Some
And some get snowed out. I don't pretend to follow World Cup Skiing, but I do know that Lindsay Vonn is good at it. She won the title the last 3 years. She was going for her 4th straight over the weekend in Switzerland. She trailed by 3 points going into the last race. What a finale was shaping up against her German rival Maria Riesch. But never mind. Bad skiing conditions, the race got called off and the German won the title. Doesn't that seem like raining out the World Series in the 5th inning of the 7th game and declaring the team ahead the champion?
5. Under Fire
It's tough being a reporter in the field. Just look at what my brethren are going through in Japan, the Middle East and Afghanistan. Not to mention the NCAA tournament. San Diego State won its first ever NCAA game, but nearly lost a local sportscaster.
As usual, camermen are the unsung heroes. On Spanning the World many years ago, a Romanian TV reporter was doing his stand-up at a stunt show when one of the cars in the show ran him over. Not to worry, nobody got hurt! (If he had been banged up we probably would have lied and said he was fine. It was that funny.)
Happy Birthday: Former shortstop Shawon Dunston. 48.
Bonus Birthday: Rosie O'Donnell. 49.
Today in Sports: The NFL officially becomes the "No Fun League." Excessive celebrations will be penalized 15 yards. 1984.
Bonus Event: John and Yoko stage a bed-in for peace in Amsterdam. 1969.
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