The Friday/Saturday Fizz

It's a short and late Fizz this week as the sports world has become pretty depressing. Add to that that one national reporter beat me to the punch in writing a 100% feel good story about all that went right in sports this week and what you read is what you get. So, from Vick and Donaghy to Ritchie and Lohan, the Fizz gives its usual thumbs up and thumbs down to various topics on the table.

Further evidence why it's impossible to please everyone: Amid the many niceties I've received this week, I've also been called an idiot (twice), a jerk, and a right-winger by one reader who apparently is all fire and brimstone when it comes to politics.

The love fest doesn't stop there though. Here's an actual exchange between me and my beautiful wife the other night:

Me: What?

Wife: I don't mind the lights on, you working late and typing away while watching ESPN, none of it. But when you talk to me, that really bothers me.

Speaking of ESPN, the network finally got it right when it comes to their drama department. The Bronx is Burning is an outstanding series that dramatizes the turmoil surrounding the 1977 New York Yankees' season. Oliver Platt (George Steinbrenner) and John Turturro (Billy Martin) really nail their portrayals, while their co-stars Erik Jensen (Thurman Munson) and Daniel Sunjata (Reggie Jackson) do a great job of demonstrating the angst the two superstars had for one another. Throw in the entire Son of Sam back story and this is a mini-series worth watching.

When it comes to modern day turmoil, it's as if the celebrities and the sports athletes have officially squared off to see who could dominate the headlines this summer. By my count, the athletes have the edge in breaking the law but the celebrities have the edge in breaking the law with style. The latest on the celeb front is that Nicole Ritchie pleaded guilty and has agreed to serve four days in jail. The real news though is the developing Lindsay Lohan nightmare. Reports are that on the night of her arrest, she actually jumped into the driver's seat of someone else's Denali and then raced through Malibu and Santa Monica with passengers in the car who, fearing for their lives, pleaded for her to stop. What looked like just another celeb getting a DUI may actually evolve into grand theft auto, kidnapping, and who knows what else.

As for sports athletes, Michael Vick continues to lead the way. The star quarterback pleaded "not guilty" on the day the Atlanta Falcons opened training camp without him. In addition to being asked to remain away from the team, Vick also received bad news from two shoe giants, Nike and Reebok. Nike has suspended Vick's lucrative contract while Reebok has stopped selling the quarterback's No. 7 jersey. To make matters worse, breaking news in the Vick case is that one of his co-defendants has worked a deal with prosecutors and will be changing his plea from not guilty to guilty as early as next Monday. Throw on top of all this the fact that player card maker Donruss won't be releasing a 2007 card of Michael Vick and I'd say he's having the worst week of all the athletes.

NBA referee Tim Donaghy remains close on Vick's heels, but still has a lot of ground to make up. The low-level mafia types he's alleged to be associated with appear to be guys he used to pal around with in high school. Donaghy's case is more pathetic than anything else right now, but like a budding flower it still has time to blossom. Mafioso legend Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas) was considered to be somewhat of a mastermind in his day. He's admitted to his own involvement in the 1978-79 Boston College basketball point shaving scandal so you can say he knows a thing or two about fixing games. If Hill's right, and there's little reason to think otherwise, then Donaghy's story is just getting warmed up because if anyone believes that all Donaghy was doing was providing his bookie friends with advanced lists of which NBA referees were officiating which games then I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

One sports figure who I think is innocent is UCLA assistant football coach Eric Scott who was arrested on suspicion of residential burglary. Karl Dorell made mention during his Pac-10 Media Day press conference that he was confident that the information provided to him regarding Scott was positive. Friday, after hearing Scott's attorney address his client's case, the news does indeed sound positive. In a nutshell, nothing was actually stolen, Scott never left his Mercedes (which was parked right next to the house in question), and, according to Scott's attorney, the coach was simply giving a ride home to one of the younger suspects whose family he has known since his teenage years. Not only does Scott seem innocent, it appears that all three might be innocent. I'm no thief but for one, who in their right mind would drive a Benz to a robbery. Unless they were planning on tying the flat screen to the roof and towing the barbeque off the back hitch, I'd think a recreational vehicle or a van would be better served here. Second, what thief parks their car next to the house they intend to rob and then enters through the front door? Third, what thief enters a home, hangs out, and steals nothing. The answer is not a single one. I've been wrong before though so we'll see how this all plays out.

Here's some more breaking news: Chuck Norris uses the Total Gym because "it works." If that tag line doesn't "work" to move products then I don't know what will.

Barry Bonds hit number 754 Friday night. He'll face Dontrelle Willis on Saturday. Despite Willis' 1.30 ERA against lefties, the way the D-Train is throwing in general this season Bonds may have number 756 by the third inning. So, if you're planning on tuning into the game, be sure to do so early.

All indications out of Pittsburgh are that new Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin isn't fooling around. The Steelers were in full pads on the opening day of training camp, participating in full contact drills. This is good news for Steelers fans who, like me, thought Pittsburgh played a bit soft in Cowher's final season.

USA Basketball is already out of medal contention in the Pan Am Games. No real surprise here as our roster looks like a who's who of third and fourth team All-Americans for the upcoming 2007-08 season. What is surprising is that the team has been eliminated from the medal round after playing only two games, losing to Uruguay and then Panama. The US squad did pull off the 74-71 upset of Argentina in their third game, receiving a spark from Washington State's Derrick Low who finished with 13 points. Low did not play in the team's first two tournament games.

After being picked to finish third in the Pac-10 by Blue Ribbon, news of Arizona's conference hopes have been pretty poor since. The Wildcats were picked to finish 7th by reporters at the Pac-10 Media Day. They then were ranked as the 71st best program in the country during the past decade by ESPN. To top off a less than stellar week of coverage, Arizona was predicted by CFN to finish 9th in the Pac-10 with a 5-7 overall record and a 2-7 mark in conference play. You know what I have to say to all of this. Thank goodness. Keep the negative press coming and while you're at it, somebody in the athletic department get Stoops & Company a good pair of scissors because the billboard material is piling up quick. Arizona, like many teams on the verge, can play the underdog role with the best of them. We've been media darlings the past few seasons with Stoops on board, and all it's done is give Arizona's fan base false expectations. I don't think anyone really knew how poor of condition John Mackovic left the program until we've had a chance to completely distance ourselves from those terrible years. If you're still not clear, let me clarify for you: Lower than low, like bury your head in the sand low. Most coaches get five years to turn things around. It took Stoops only one day to turn around the attitude of not just the football program, but the entire fan base. Entering year four, many feel Stoops must begin to produce wins to continue to show progress. While I want wins, I don't necessarily agree with that assessment. Arizona needs to continue to improve the way they practice every single day because when it comes to big time sports, the way you practice is the way you play, especially in pressure situations. The game of football is so incredibly fast that to be good you have to play on instinct. And the best instinctual players are that way because they practice with a purpose, knowing that each repetition, each repetitive motion, serves to take the "thinking" out of their play. Therefore, when push comes to shove and the game is on the line all an athlete has to do is act and react.

Mike Stoops understands this. Arizona will improve in the win column if they continue to improve the way they practice. As Antoine Cason said during Arizona's Media Day press conference, the team practiced much better in preparing for their last four games which enabled them to go 3-1 (beating two ranked teams) down the stretch. The wins will come, but to solely focus on wins is a mistake

With all the negative headlines of late, life in the sports world has been a bit depressing. The good news though is there's no more dying for football to be here because it finally is. So, enjoy a great first week of fall camps as they open around the country.

Bear Down!

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