Friday, July 31, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Ortiz a juicer?

Bye, bye baseball.

Back in May I stated in a blog that if David Ortiz, one of my favorite ball players, tested positive for steroids...I would be done with America's pastime. Sure it was an empty threat, but it looks like that time may have come.

The New York Times dropped a bombshell on us on Thursday – apparently Manny Ramirez (duh) and David Ortiz are two of the players that tested positive in the MLB's anonymous 2003 drug tests (which the league used to decide if they should start testing).

If they are anonymous tests, how does the New Tork Times know? Lawyers with knowledge of the results, (of course) seeking their own anonymity, told them so.

As The Times point out, some of baseball's most cherished storylines have been forever tainted by steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, but is there a bigger story in the last decade than the one involving Man-Ram and Big Papi?

In 2004 (a year after the alleged positive tests), Ramirez and Ortiz were instrumental in the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in 86 years, breaking the "Curse of the Bambino." That Red Sox team was a force to be reckoned with, spoiling the city of Boston with another title in 2007.

Earlier this season, Ramirez tarnished the credibility of those wins with a different, more recent, positive drug test that landed him a 50-game suspension.

For Bo-Sox fans that were hoping this was a new thing he was trying, it seems that isn't the case.

As for Ortiz, he says he's surprised to learn that he tested positive for a banned substance and vows to find out what that substance was and share that information with the world.
To be honest, I believe him.

"You know me -- I will not hide and I will not make excuses," the Red Sox slugger said.

According to the NY Times baseball blog, the 2003 test results were obviously supposed to remain anonymous and the list was supposed to be destroyed afterwards, but it wasn’t. Federal agents then seized the roughly 100 names.

Doesn’t that seem a bit sleazy on the part of whoever was responsible for the anonymity side of the agreement?

The other thing is, according to MLB.com, only five-to-seven percent of the 2003 tests came back positive. Doesn’t it seem a little bit unlikely that if you tested everyone, you would only catch the stars of the game?

I just find it hard to believe that the MLB could catch big name players like A-Rod, Man-Ram, Ortiz and Sammy Sosa and the other 93-95% of the league was clean.

If players of that stature were using performance-enhancers, it’s almost a guarantee that a good chunk of the rest of the league was also using.

You know what the sad part in all of this is?

Pro baseball players can no longer have a bad year without some kind of allegations of previous steroid use coming up. A player can no longer have a couple of outstanding years and then a bad one without people saying “he must be off the juice!”

It’s already happening with Big Papi…let’s hope he’s got a darn good excuse for that positive test!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Shaq calls out Becks

David Beckham has had a tough couple of weeks.

First, he was fined by Major League Soccer for an altercation with a fan where he called the guy down to field level (from behind a bunch of LA riot police). Then the next week in Kansas City, he got into it with an opposition fan. This week, he's got bigger problems.

Shaquille O'Neal is calling out the English soccer star with a challenge.

The Big Aristotle fancies himself a bit of a soccer player, and wants Beckham to try and score on him - which could be tough, given his seven-foot-one, 325-pound frame.

O'Neal will be seen playing a lot of sports other than basketball in the coming months, with his new reality show, called Shaq Vs., debuting in mid-August. In an effort to get Beckham to take part, Diesel made the challenge in a series of "tweets" from his Twitter account.

Here's The_Real_Shaq's tweet chronology:

July 23: "Dear david beckham, I kno u heard about my shaq vs show, anyway u will never score a goal on me, I challenge you lil man"

July 24: "David beckham I kno u hear me, dnt be scared, dnt make me call u out, u will never score a goal on me"

July 25: "Dear david beckham, dnt make me tweet to 2 million people that yur scared of shaq, u betta respnd, if u scared get a dog"

July 29: "Its official, today is david beckham is scared of shaq, day, he should b scared, he can never score a goal on me"

Will Beckham accept the challenge? Can Shaq actually stop a Beckham penalty kick? These are the pressing questions that we may never know the answer to.

One question involving Shaq that WAS answered last week was: Can Shaquille O'Neal show up at the front door of the White House and get in?

The answer is no. The Cavaliers centre was guest hosting WWE's Raw in Washington last week and had a bet going with one of his handlers that he could show up unannounced and get in.

The rules were simple: Shaq couldn't use any of his political connections, he couldn't show a badge, he couldn't call anybody - he just had to walk up and give it a shot.

According to the D.C. Sports Bog, the guys at the gate said "Shaq, we can't do it," after which he tweeted "the white house wouldn't let me in, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy."

For losing the bet, Shaq owes his buddy 1,000 pushups. Well, at least he knows! I wonder if President Obama was even home...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Double Jeopardy?

Michael Vick and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have apparently sat down for a chat about the newly-sprung quarterback's future in the league.

Sports Illustrated says the meeting between Vick, a couple of other guys and the commish took place at a small security firm in New Jersey on Wednesday afternoon. That's about all the article says, because the NFL won't say anything and Vick would be smart not to either.

The former Atlanta Falcons standout just finished serving a widely-publicized 23-month prison sentence on a dogfighting conviction and is hoping to have his indefinite suspension in the NFL lifted before next week, when the majority of training camps across the league begin.

Vick's release wasn't without a dash of controversy - but I'm not even going to touch that story!

Now to the debate - should Michael Vick be allowed to play football in the NFL again?

My response is YES! I think it would be unfair to keep a guy out of a league after he served his time for the crimes he committed. There are obvious arguments to that statement, but it's just how I feel. The guy made some mistakes and he served hard time (not the couple of days in prison that many Hollywood celebs seem to get for their crimes these days) - so let him back in!

Now, there's a strong, or at least decent, possibility that no team will sign him if he is reinstated - but I think it's only fair that he is given the opportunity.

Another issue is animal rights groups like PETA getting involved.

PETA says Michael Vick's return to the NFL should be pending the results of a psychological test to see if he is capable of showing remorse. Personally, I think PETA should stay out of it.

Like I said the first time I blogged about what might happen with Vick once he's out of jail, I value the role that groups like PETA play in the grand scheme of things; I really do. However, if they start protesting if or when Vick is reinstated, we'll know they're just in it for the headlines.

Again - the guy made some mistakes, he served time in a federal penitentiary for those mistakes and he deserves a second chance. Nobody's perfect, and PETA is no exception (according to PETAkillsanimals.com, the organization found homes for less than one of every 300 animals in 2008, killing 95% of the dogs and cats in their care).

Enough of that though - the issue here is whether or not Michael Vick deserves another chance this season in the NFL.

Would anything else be tantamount to a form of double jeopardy? There's talk of Vick being reinstated, but with something like a four-game ban. Would that be fair, considering he's been suspended since late August of 2007?

What do you think?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Air Jordan!

Back in early July, the King was humbled, if only just for a few seconds.

Xavier sophomore Jordan Crawford took to the skies over LeBron James during a pickup game at the LeBron James Skills Academy, dunking on the NBA superstar in front of a court full of players and a few onlookers, including some with cameras.

Rather than letting it go and getting on with things, LeBron took action.

According to the people in attendance, he walked over to a Nike staff member and spoke to him right after being dunked on. That person then approached photographer and blogger Ryan Miller and told him he wasn't allowed to film the event and told him they were going to confiscate his tape.

Miller blogged about the incident afterwards, pointing out that there are no rules against filming, even providing the documentation to back up his claims. So what was the problem then?

In basketball, getting dunked on or getting posterized by another player is a big deal that is usually followed by a stare down (though it didn't in this case) and/or people on the sidelines going nuts (which definitely happened).

What likely happened here is James knows how fast things travel on the internet and wanted to do some damage control.

What James didn't know is that by confiscating the video evidence, it really becomes newsworthy! The other thing he didn't know is that by confiscating the tape, it becomes a hot commodity and eventually finds its way to the public!

AND IT DID:


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: What's My Age Again?

With everything happening in the world these days, why is the US government wasting its time hassling the NBA about its minimum age requirement?

Seriously. There's got to be something more pressing than arguing with the league brass about an issue that can't be addressed until at least 2011 (when the current CBA potentially ends).

Apparently there isn't!

The NBA had to defend its minimum age requirement to Congress on Monday against accusations that it's "unfair" to the players. The rule states a player has to be 19 years old or be out of high school for one year before he's eligible to play.

Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) says he's "concerned that the careers of young men who possess all the skills necessary to succeed in the NBA may be sacrificed" by the rule, even increasing the chance of injury in that gap year.

Cohen even goes as far as calling it "age discrimination," saying it prevents players from "supporting their families" - are you kidding me?

NBA president Joel Litvin fired back by saying the league doesn't understand the objections of Congress, because plenty of employers require post-high school experience and the US Constitution even sets minimum ages for House members, senators and the president!

Want to know my take on it?

I think it's ridiculous. This Steve Cohen character should focus on regular people that can't support their families, not potential millionaires that have to wait a year before trying to play professional basketball in North America.

Cohen says they'll consider "hearings and legislation" if the age requirement remains - oh really? You don't think that'll set a bizarre precedent?

The other thing is - the NBA rule doesn't stipulate that players have to go to college against their will and play for free for that year between high school and a possible pro career.

For example, if a guy really needs to support his family and he's good enough to jump into the NBA right out of high school, he'll be able to find somewhere to ply his trade (like Europe).

You have to be 21 to buy alcohol in the states - isn't that the same type of discrimination?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Pros vs. Shaq?

Remember last summer when Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco raced a horse for charity and then challenged Michael Phelps to a swimming race? If you enjoyed that, you'll love this:

On August 18th, ABC is debuting a new show called "Shaq vs.," a reality-style show pitting the 7'1 NBA star against top athletes, including Phelps, in their own sports! Think "Pros vs. Joes," but with The Big Aristotle playing the role of the "Joe."

Doesn't that sound awesome?!

Besides taking on Phelps in the pool, Shaq will play football against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he'll box with Oscar De La Hoya, go swing for swing with Albert Pujols and try to return a Serena Williams serve (or at the very least, out-grunt her).

The report I read didn't mention anything about mixed martial arts, but maybe he'll finally pay Chuck Liddell a visit and get his MMA career started!

His trainer Jonathan Burke says Shaq won't fight while he's playing in the NBA, but if you're very loose with that definition, that could mean he'll only fight in the off-season, right?

Whatever he does, the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers better not try to dunk on LeBron James for his show - that footage will never make the cut!

Not sure if the show is going to be funny? Here's a video of Shaq calling out UFC legend Chuck Liddell and the Korean kickboxer that beat up Jose Canseco:


Friday, July 17, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Is Balsillie still in it?

In another peculiar twist in the Phoenix Coyotes ownership scandal, the NHL has sent a letter to its archrival, Jim Balsillie.

It looked as though the Canadian billionaire had struck out on yet another bid to buy a NHL club, but for the first time, the league seems to be acknowledging that they could lose that bankruptcy court case.

The Toronto Star says the NHL letter to Balsillie demands every detail of his business plan, should the Coyotes be allowed to move to Hamilton.

That sounds like an acknowledgement, doesn’t it?

How about this: the letter outlines 23 bits of information the league says it needs before it can approve Balsillie as an owner.

Before they can approve him as an owner? The NHL is actually floating around the idea that Jim Balsillie could own an NHL team? My, they’ve certainly come a long way on this one!

Balsillie’s legal team says the co-founder of Research in Motion is over halfway done compiling the info.

The Star has a list of a few of the league demands:

-Analysis concerning the existing state of Copps Coliseum.

-How long it will take before the team plays in a "fully renovated" Copps Coliseum.

-Where the team might play if renovations interfere with the schedule.

-Financial projections and the basis upon which the business plan for the team operating in Hamilton was built.

-Census and demographic reports for Hamilton.

The NHL hasn’t put a price tag on an expansion fee, but speculation has it in the range of $225-million to $265-million.

This latest move may just be the NHL trying to cover all of its bases, but it also signals a pretty big step for Balsillie in his quest to become an owner in the league.

For the first time since he tried to pull a fast one on Gary Bettman by buying the team and forcing his way into the club, the NHL is actually giving some weight to the idea of losing this fight.

By no means is this the end of it, but you know Jim Balsillie and the city of Hamilton are feeling good today!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Becks on the Move Again?

David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy have a weird relationship don't they?

The Galaxy are like a girlfriend that knows she's being cheated on, has heard about it from others and even seen it with her own eyes, but still thinks she can change her boyfriend, who in this case is David Beckham.

Becks rejoined the LA club this week after a six-month loan to Italian club AC Milan, a loan the Galaxy were paid $10-million to extend, and guess what? He's already talking about where he's going to go once the MLS season is over in November!

The reasoning for all of this moving about is that England's most-capped player really wants to play for his country in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - and to be considered, he'll likely have to be playing top flight soccer in Europe, rather than the USA.

The whole thing has made Beckham a little unpopular with some of his teammates , but you can't please everybody!

Here's a timeline of the LA Galaxy's raw deal:

In 2007, Beckham signed a five-year, $250-million deal with the MLS. In his first season, he appeared in a total of five games and missed six weeks with a knee injury.

In 2008, he played in all but five Galaxy games, scoring five goals. In October, Beckham left for AC Milan on a three-month loan.

In 2009, the *MLS was paid a reported $10-million to make that loan with AC Milan a six-month term - a deal described as a "timeshare."

Since signing the huge deal with the MLS, Beckham has played in just 30 of a possible 77 games. Talk about bang for your buck!

Oh, and incase you're wondering:

The former Manchester United star has done an about face, saying he would now consider a move back to the English Premier League with someone other than the Red Devils (possibly Chelsea). There's also the possibility that he could wind up back in Italy.

*In the MLS, players sign contracts with the league, rather than with individual teams.

Kerrzy’s Notebook: MLB snubs Canada

Sure, we sometimes forget the words to your anthem America, but did you know our anthem has words too?

It’s not a huge deal, but at the MLB All-Star game on Tuesday night, they forgot to sing “O Canada” during the national (or "natinal" if you’re from Washington) anthem portion of the pre-game ceremonies.

Before Sheryl Crow performed the Star Spangled Banner in front of the capacity crowd at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, a canned instrumental version of O Canada filled the air as the players, some Canadian, stood in the infield.

They get a Grammy Award winner (albeit a washed up and irrelevant one) and we get nothing?! Not even a washed up and irrelevant Canadian?!

One very relevant Canadian in the lineup, Justin Morneau from New Westminster, BC, wasn’t impressed.

Morneau told the Canadian Press “it’s something that didn’t really go over too well,” adding he thinks they could have found somebody to come in and sing it.

Here are some possible scenarios that could explain things:

Sheryl Crow refused to sing the song in a long-awaited retaliation to Caroline Marcil’s shortened version of the US anthem?

Was it an honest mistake by the organizers of the Midsummer Classic who simply didn’t know that we have an anthem with words?

Or, did US President Barack Obama orchestrate the whole thing as a diss on Prime Minister Stephen "Late Show" Harper? (As in, it was just an instrumental because the singer was late...if so, kudos Mr. President!)

At the end of the day, or the end of the next day as it were, it’s not a big deal…it’s just a bit rude. I can only imagine the roasting Canadian organizers would get if the reverse happened on our soil!

I've got an idea though that will get back at our border mates AND unite Canada - lets all learn the Star Spangled Banner in french and sing over patriotic Americans at every chance we get!

BONUS: Just because it's funny, here's Caroline Marcil, who doesn't know the Star Spangled Banner in english or french, making a name for herself:


Kerrzy's Notebook: Spy Games

Coming into week three of the CFL season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can't possibly be the most desperate team in the league, can they?

The defending Grey Cup champion Calgary Stampeders have given up at least 40 points in their first two losses, and the BC Lions are falling apart at the seams - but according to the Globe and Mail, it's the Bombers that are accused of spying on their next opponent!

According to reports, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats confiscated more than a dozen pages of notes and diagrams of formations at practise on Tuesday from a visitor named Ron Trentini - who later confessed to scouting for Winnipeg.

Spying on the Ti-Cats? Really?

I could see the Bombers spying if they were about to play the Montreal Alouettes or something, especially given their 40 and then 50 point performances so far this season, but Hamilton? Sure they just won a game, but that was their fourth win in their last 20 games!

Oddly enough, the Alouettes were caught spying twice in the 2004 season - but that's neither here nor there.

We don't know yet if the league will take any action on the Blue Bombers. What we do know is that Trentini (if that's even his real name) isn't a very good spy, and the president of the Tiger-Cats is a funny guy!

Here's what Scott Mitchell had to say to the Globe and Mail regarding the spy games:

"To be honest, we probably made a mistake by escorting him out. Considering how quickly he gave up his contacts and his reason for being there, we probably should have bought him lunch and asked him some more questions, who knows what we would have found out?"

Aren't spies supposed to put up a fight before they give up information? Or at the very least, make some kind of daring escape?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Something in the Water?

In honour of the high-profile soccer game between English club Everton and Argentina's River Plate that is set to hit Edmonton in less than two weeks, we're talking a little soccer today...

There's a bizarre trend striking Canadian professional soccer teams - first it was the Vancouver Whitecaps, now it's the Montreal Impact. Why are their players assaulting each other on the field?

Every now and then in the NHL you'll hear about a fight between teammates during practise (see below) - but in this case, to reverse-quote Allen Iverson: "we're not talkin' about practise, we're talkin' about the game!"

Last month, a couple of Vancouver Whitecaps got involved in a mid-field shoving match after a botched two-on-one late in a 3-2 win over Miami FC. The ensuing disagreement landed defender Wesley Charles a straight red card and striker Charles Gbeke a yellow, followed by another yellow for kicking around some water bottles.

If you fast-forward this video to about the eight minute mark, you'll see what I'm talking about:

Both players were suspended for one game by the United Soccer League and then an additional game by their club. Not even one month later, we've got another incident to report!

This time it happened in a game between a couple of Montreal Impact players in a game against the Minnesota Thunder this past weekend.

As players were getting ready to take a free kick in a 3-0 win for Minnesota, Impact midfielder Sandro Grande grabbed team captain Mauro Biello by the throat! The incident was caught by a photographer, and surely a few people in attendance.

Grande was suspended by his team, but the length of that suspension wasn't disclosed.

Who just walks up and chokes a teammate during a game?! That is a serious disagreement right there if you decide that choking another guy (nevermind a teammate, nevermind the team captain) in front of over 3,000 people is the right way to settle things.

I still find it so strange that this same sort of thing would happen twice, both to Canadian teams, in less than a month though. Maybe it's time to start watching some of these games!!!!!

And now, as promised - a classic NHL practise fight between teammates!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Interview with Sportsnet's "Showdown" Joe Ferraro

UFC 100 goes this weekend in Las Vegas - so to get prepared, I called up an expert. Showdown Joe Ferraro sat down with me Friday afternoon to talk a little UFC and get an idea of who he is pulling for in the two big fights.

JK: Showdown Joe Ferraro - you're in Las Vegas for the big show on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Event Center - the biggest UFC event in the history of the sport - two championships on the line. First lets talk about Brock Lesnar...is he the real deal?

JF: I think he's the real deal, I mean here's a guy that comes from an NCAA wrestling background. he WWE is one thing, that's where he went afterwards. He had to get paid, he wanted to make some money, because you don't make money coming out of amateur wrestling. But then he realized the competition spirit. A lot of these wrestlers, they've been doing it since they were seven or eight years old and it's just bred into their system so he wanted to fight. And now here's a guy that's learning as much as he can, as quickly as he can and he's doing a very, very good job. His striking is coming a long way, his wrestling is a natural form and now he's got to learn those submissions, so talking to his guys - a lot of guys in his camp are saying this guy's a human sponge, a big human sponge we know that, but he's able to absorb the information and start using it when he's training. The question is, can he do it on Saturday night versus Frank Mir.

JK: I was a bit skeptical when he first came in, just because of the WWE background, but he's shown that he can be an absolutely destructive fighter...

JF: Of course! Look at his hands - they have to custom make gloves for his hands, he's an absolute monster. They're like cement blocks when they're coming at you, just ask Randy Couture. It's not just that he can generate power, it's an 85-inch reach. If you think about it, 85-inch reach...you cannot replicate that in training with most training partners. You can bring in big guys, but do they have an 85-inch reach like Brock Lesnar? That's the first thing Randy Couture told me after the fight when he lost the title, he said "Joe, I brought so many different guys in to try and replicate his type of style, what I couldn't do is get a guy with an 85-inch reach that I could bob and weave and flip those punches. And we saw what happened before the end of the fight, he got hit with that right hand and then we saw the beginning of the end there for Randy Couture. This guy, when he hits you, and that's the one thing about Frank Mir, he's got the submissions but if he gets rocked and he did it twice to Frank, he'll be in big trouble.

JK: It's the unification bout for the heavyweight title - Frank Mir won by submission the first time around, what do you expect in the grudge match?

JF: It's one of those situations where you look at Brock Lesnar and he's learning so much, but I'm one of those guys, when I break down fights I look at experience and I look at the track record. Frank Mir has fought some of the best guys out there and he's won. He's been in wars, he's got tons of experience, he's not afraid of Brock Lesnar, he's already defeated him once and his submission game is absolutely phenominal. Next to [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira and Fedor [Emelianenko] - you talk about Frank Mir who's easily top three in terms of submissions in that heavyweight division - I'm still going for Frank Mir believe it or not. I might be bigging up a lot with Brock Lesnar and Lesnar's got that one-punch knockout power so I wouldn't be surprised if he knocks out Frank Mir, but if the fight goes on I think Frank Mir can surprise everyone and pull off another submission and that's who I'm going to go with for this fight.

JK: It's going to be interesting either way, because you've got one guy where, if he hits you you're probably done...but on the other hand if you leave yourself vulnerable, Mir's going to submit you.

JF: That's the thing about Mir. Mir surprised a lot of people. And the other thing about Frank Mir that people are forgetting is he's not a small heavyweight, he's a big heavyweight. He's 245, 250 pounds! When I interviewed him two days ago, he dwarfs me! I mean most fighters dwarf me anyways, I'm only 5'7, but here's a guy who's big. And when I was talking to Brock afterwards I said 'you know what? The size difference isn't as big as when you saw Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar so Mir's a big guy, so the size situation may not be as much of a factor as some people think. We saw Mir's striking against Nogueira look phenominal, so if he can sort of bob and weave and get away from those strikes from Lesnar, and that fight does end up going to the ground - because Lesnar can take it there whenever he wants - we might be seeing another surprise submission with Frank Mir.

JK: Lets move on to the other MAIN fight of the night - George "Rush" St. Pierre and Thiago "Pitbull" Alves. GSP says he's "fighting for his legacy" on Saturday night; Alves says the title is his destiny. Doesn't this sound like the trailor for a movie?

JF: (Laughing) Yes it does, it's true! The funny thing is, when I interview Thiago I think I asked him four or five questions and every one of those questions pretty much ended with 'I'm going to knock him out, I'm going to knock him out and I'm going to knock him out!' With Thiago Alves, this guy's a mercenary, who are we kidding. His leg kicks are ruthless. They would snap anyone elses legs if you're not a trained and conditioned fighter. But George St. Pierre, in my opinion, is on a completely different level than any fighter on the planet next to Anderson Silva and perhaps Lyoto Machida. I mean, he is absolutely phenominal. George is saying, and he's doing everything he can to convince people that Thiago Alves is his toughest opponent to date - I don't believe it. I believe Jon Fitch was his toughest opponent. Again - it's mixed martial arts, anything can happen in a fight, I just think George St. Pierre is on a completely different level than Thiago Alves and we'll see what happens, but I've got George St. Pierre winning this fight, I think he's going to suck the will to win right out of Thiago Alves and eventually close out the fight, either third round or fourth round.

JK: I've seen comment from a ton of fighters that all seem to think that, like you say, St. Pierre is just too good of a fighter not to win this one. You've spoken to him before - the thing that I like about him from reading and seeing interviews, is he just seems like such a genuine guy. He works harder than anyone else, he's got all kinds of publicity...but he still seems to be pretty grounded, ordinary guy.

JF: Very grounded guy. George fought for me, his first four fights he fought for me in the UCC and TKO organization and he's never changed. He's just one of those guys who just understands the game, understands what's required as a fighter in terms of what you've got to do in the cage or in the ring, as well as outside the cage or ring in terms of interviews and getting sponsorships and being a good ambassador and role model for the sport. The one thing that's also never changed for George St. Pierre is the fact that he never stops evolving, he never stops learning, he's never content with his style. We're talking about a guy that's arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, yet he still thinks he needs to improve and is always looking for that next thing, the intricacies of moves - your bobbing and weaving, your standing and trading, your setting up of your transitions. He also looks at fighting different than any other guy out there, he looks at it as a science and he looks at it in different ways, for example: In that BJ Penn fight, no one saw it coming, but they looked at BJ Penn's body type and realized with that type of body, we've got get him tired in a certain way. We remember in that first round against BJ Penn I think he had him in a single-leg attempt against the cage, but he refused to take him down. I thought to myself, 'why isn't he taking him down? He could take down BJ at will at this point, he's already in this for the takedown.' Well no, BJ Penn had his under-hooks on George St. Pierre and the plan was to lean on BJ Penn and get those smaller shoulders tired, get them fatigued and when there's about a minute left in the round, disengage and now lets start boxing. So BJ's shoulders were physically exhausted and he couldn't throw a punch and that's when George started peppering him and punishing him and he continued that strategy until Penn wanted to take it down to the ground, which is exactly where George wanted to go and then started punishing him down there. Just imagine when he's looking at Thiago Alves right now and thinking 'okay here's a different type of body type, a big, big, BIG welterweight - now what?' I tried to get it out of George, what are you doing this time around, he wouldn't give it up. He did a really good job there, no matter how many times I peppered him with the question, so we'll see what happens on Saturday night, but here's a guy that looks at fighting scientifically and is always trying to get better.

JK: You know, when I heard about what he did to prepare for that last fight, I was blown away. It reminded me of seeing Muhammad Ali train for the Rumble in the Jungle - okay well he's a big hitter, so I'm going to work on getting pounded and then I'll just pounce. If Alves wants to keep that eight-match win streak going and take the belt away from St. Pierre, what does he have to do?

JF: Well the best thing to do with St. Pierre is keep your distance, you know, and George has really long extended jabs but at the same time you've got to catch George St. Pierre when he plants his feet, be aware of that left-hand superman punch because most guys don't throw it, they usually throw it with their right hand. They'll skip up and then throw it, so with George you've got to watch that, at the same time, you've got to pepper George's legs. Punish him, punish him, punish him, punish him, while being cognizant and being very, very aware of where you are in the cage. If you're Thiago Alves and you're getting backed up, you need to be aware of where the cage is behind you because if you get too close to the cage, George will come in for a takedown. But if you look at Thiago Alves' fights, whenever he has his back to the cage, I don't know if you've ever noticed in the octagon, the mat itself has black sort of barrier before you get to the cage about a metre out, I think he realizes once he's around that section there, he needs to start getting out of the way or teeing off and I think that's what he's going to want to do if George gets too close. Thiago's very dangerous when his back is against the cage, but a guy like George St. Pierre - you've got to go for the knockout. I don't think, even with Thiago's black-belt in jiu-jitsu, he'll be able to submit George. He's got to rely on his striking, use his Muay-Thai, because that's where he has the advantage over George.

JK: And now one last question for you: UFC President Dana White is expecting a record pay-per-view audience on Saturday. Which of the other fights on the 11-bout card should fight fans be really excited for?

JF: There's a whole whack of them to be honest with you, but there's two of them that I'm paying close attention to. Of course, the two coaches for The Ultimate Fighter season nine, Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping, which potentially could be the fight of the night. It's definitely flying under the radar with this main event and co-main event, but these two guys are looking to tee-off on each other. Bisping is looking to making an example. He wants to use Dan Henderson as a stepping stone to be a real contender in that middleweight division and if he defeats Henderson there's a title shot on the line, in his home country, probably in October or November in England and that's what he wants. For Henderson, he does not want to be used as a stepping stone, he wants to prove that he's still got it, he's not washed up, and he's not old. Henderson's wrestling and clinch game is phenominal, look for that overhand right. The other fight that I'm playing close attention to is what I'm calling basically your redemption match - it's Jon Fitch taking on Paulo Thiago. If you remember, Paulo Thiago came out of nowhere, he's undefeated in the welterweight division and he knocked out Jon Fitch's training partner Josh Koscheck with a beautiful uppercut. Jon Fitch wanted that fight immediately, as soon as Koscheck was given that loss he said 'I want Paulo Thiago.' And Paulo Thiago is the type of Brazilian to say 'you know what? You want to fight me? Sign on the dotted line, we're going to get this done.' So that's the one fight that I'll be playing very, very close attention to, and it's another candidate potentially for Fight of the Night.

JK: Alright Showdown Joe, thank you very much for your time and hey - enjoy yourself this weekend.

JF: Always a pleasure, thank you very much!

Kerrzy's Notebook: Interview with IndyCar's Scott Dixon

The Rexall Edmonton Indy is just a couple of weeks away from taking over the headlines in our city. Once again, I spoke with another of the drivers that'll likely be front and centre when things get underway.

New Zealand's own Scott Dixon or Target Chip Ganassi racing is the reigning IndyCar Series champion and one of his six wins last season came right here at Rexall Speedway.

Dixon talks about the ups and downs of his IndyCar career so far, life as a husband and new father, and some funny advice for up and coming drivers!

Listen to the interview HERE:









JK: One race to go before the 2009 Rexall Edmonton Indy - you've got three wins already this season and four since your win here. Should fans in this city be ready for a repeat?

SD: I hope so, we're definitely looking forward to the Canadian races - we've got Toronto coming up this weekend and then a weekend off and we're back to Edmonton. Edmonton last year was probably one of the toughest weekends I've ever had, considering that when we got there we were probably 11th or 12th in the first practise then we wound up winning the race at the end of the weekend so it was a lot of fun. Definitely a very challenging circuit, but a fun city and a fantastic track.

JK: What do you remember most about your time in Edmonton last year, before you crossed the finish line?

SD: I think probably the thing that stuck out was - you know, the race did go extremely well, the tiger car was fast and the key point for us was probably the last pit stop when we jumped ahead of Helio Castroneves so that was probably the key to the race. I had a lot of fun in the city, it was great to get down and see the festivities on the Friday night, downtown to grab some food and see all the fans and see everybody that was excited to be at the race.

JK: It's bound to happen at some point - what'll it mean to you when you become the Indy Racing League’s leader in all-time wins with your next first-place finish?

SD: It's kind of funny to even be aligned with that sentence - it has been a while since Sam Hornish has raced in the series, since 2006, but you know to be tied with him at the moment on 19 is pretty special. It's pretty cool to be, hopefully in the next few races, be named as the all-time winner of the IndyCar series. It's going to be a tough challenge keep that going, there's a couple of other drivers that are fairly close to me. You've got Helio [Castroneves] on 16 and maybe TK [Tony Kanaan] on 14, so it's pretty special.

JK: Lets talk about your team: Target Chip Ganassi racing has won FIVE of NINE races so far this season. What is it about your teammates and yourself that makes you guys so dominant?

SD: Well I think the Target team has always been dominant, we've won many races, many championships. Last year [we're] coming off such a big one, myself winning six races, eight as a team which is about half the races and another championship and the [Indy] 500 was a big year for us. So we've got high expectations, we're used to winning and we're going to keep trying to win, but you know I think Dario [Franchitti] has been a huge influence this year. The guy is very accomplished, it's great to have him back in the IndyCar series and to see him already winning two races, he's going to be a huge threat for the championship.

JK: Talk about Chip Ganassi the man, and what he's done for the sport. On your website, which is a great looking site by the way, he's referred to as one of the most successful and innovative owners the game has ever had.

SD: For me, it's plain and simple - the guy is just massively competitive. When you mess up or you do something wrong, he's the first guy that's going to be in your face to see what happened. A lot of teams, there's a lot of politics going on and things like that and Chip, he keeps things fairly simple. He makes sure he gets great budgets from a great sponsor like Target to make sure that we can get what we need. Unfortunately, motor racing is quite expensive. He's been a racer before, so he knows what the drivers expect and I think the keys are being simple, but knowing what you want. It goes back to being competitive and Chip's probably the most competitive person I know.

JK: You're a bit of an Ironman when it comes to the IndyCar series, finishing 28 straight races twice in your career. What do you attribute that kind of longevity to, a lot of shoulder checks out there on the track?

SD: (Laughing) I don't know! The racing side, obviously I've been racing since I was seven when I started in go-karts, but it's a ton of fun. Having reliability and things like that [is good], but fitness is a huge part of racing as well. For me, I love doing it, it's a lot of fun and it keeps you not worrying about the physical side of things when you can be focusing on the racing. The mix of loving sports, being physical and the racing side of it is a huge benefit.

JK: You joined the team back in 2002 - your first taste of a top-level team. Since then you've won two championships and were unlucky to win a third in 2007, so you've obviously had a lot of success. Take me through some of the ups and downs of the first couple of years.

SD: The first year I started midway through the season with Team Target in 2002 but my first full season was 2003. Going into the IndyCar series, an all-oval series, I'm from New Zealand so all my racing had been on road courses and street courses so it was definitely an eye-opener. But to go into that season and come out that year in 2003 to be the champions, you know I don't think I really knew what I'd won. I think that was for the team as well, it was just such a fantastic first year to go in and come out as champion - it was awfully strange I guess. The first two years to follow after that, 2004 and 2005, were dreadful. We had an engine manufacturer that was not as good as the other one, and Honda definitely dominated those two years. It was a struggle for us to be in the top ten. So to go from such a high peak and then to have two dreadful years, it was very frustrating. But we definitely and quickly turned that around in 2006 to have Dan Wheldon and myself fighting for the championship in the last race, Sam Hornish obviously won that year. Then 2007, to be fighting Dario down to the last lap, last corner, me running out of fuel and losing the championship was pretty tough. So last year was a dream come true, winning the biggest race that we have, the Indianapolis 500 and then going on to winning the championship.

JK: And you also got married last year! Are we seeing some of the momentum carrying over into this season and how's married life treating you?

SD: It's been fantastic - and I'm hoping my wife's not listening because I forgot the biggest and best part of 2008 was getting married. It's definitely been a lot of fun, Emma is a fantastic woman and has changed me in many ways and we actually just had our first baby on Sunday. We had a little baby girl, Poppy. We've got quite the nice little family going!

JK: Congratulations! Lets delve a little more into your background - I had a lot of fun reading through the bio section of ScottDixon.com, as you'll see by some of the next questions. But lets start at the beginning - how did you get into racing, is it true that both of your parents were race-car drivers too?

SD: Yeah, that is true! I'm actually the only Australian-born person in my family, all of us are Kiwis and from New Zealand and they were actually living in Australia at the time. They owned a race track, a dirt race track. My dad had raced in club stuff from road courses to rally cars to dirt cars to all kinds of stuff so it's always been in his blood, and my mom definitely got into some of the racing at the speedway at that time and I think she enjoyed just being a part of it. But the key point for me was watching my cousins when I was seven once we'd moved back to New Zealand. I watched them go-kart and two weeks later I had my own and I've been racing ever since so it's definitely a huge family influence.

JK: Your car number is nine. What's the significance of that?

SD: No significance, Chip picked the number. We probably should be running number one this year since we won the championship last year but he's a little superstitious because after our 2003 victory of the championship we ran number one and we had a dreadful season! So I think he's trying to keep the number nine going.

JK: Fair enough! I read on your website that you train, and occasionally compete in the triathlon - does pushing yourself to the brink like that off the track help your push yourself out there on the track?

SD: Yeah, absolutely! Going back to the physical side of things, at some of these circuits we're getting up to 5G's in the corners and you're racing flat out for up to two or three hours at a time, it's very draining on the body. For me, I love working out, I love triathlons, I've done some half Ironmans a lot of sprint triathlons and things like that. It keeps me interested on the fun side of the fitness and it benefits me in the race car.

JK: Have you competed in one recently?

SD: I haven't competed in one for probably about six months. Last year was very tough with the compressed season that we had, and because they're always in the summer it's been tough but I think I've got another one coming up in about a month so I'll be looking forward to that!

JK: When you got the keys to your first ever car, a 1982 Honda Prelude, how many speeding tickets did you get in your first year?

SD: I had lots of red light tickets...actually I think I did get a few speeding tickets! I wrecked my cars, I put them in ditches - I was probably the worst teenager that my parents could have ever dreamt of. I owe them a lot, put it that way!

JK: What advice would you give an up-and-coming race car driver?

SD: The best advice is just to keep at it! Obviously you need a lot of support; you can't do motor racing without family or some sort of financial support, that's the toughest part of it. But as long as you've got that, you've got to be hungry, you've got keep pushing and keep doing your best. As soon as you win a category you've got to get out of it. You've got to move up and get on to the next biggest thing.

JK: Are you sure it's not "Don't ever let your mother tie a cushion to your butt before getting in a race car?"

SD: Well yeah, I can see where you're coming from on that one! That was a story I'm never going to live down, obviously racing when I was thirteen. I was in an endurance race where I had a team partner that I was meant to swap over with at halfway and let him finish the race. Because I was only thirteen and he was like 28 or 30, to make the driver change quicker they put a cushion on my butt, but it was a nice floral cushion. Somebody crashed me out of the race and flipped me and then when I crawled out of the car I had this big floral cushion tied to my butt so it didn't look too good!

JK: One final question: Where is your favourite place to race?

SD: My favourite race track is Phillip Island in Australia. It's a place that I grew up racing a lot at. I'd say the Canadian races that I've had so far have been fantastic too, as far as Vancouver and Edmonton and Montreal and Toronto - they've all been great places, great cities to attend. And I think the city vibe is definitely a big key too so I can't wait to get there in a few weeks.

JK: Thank you very much Scott; I wish you the best of luck the rest of the way, and I hope you make some history here in Edmonton!

SD: I hope so, thank you very much!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Interview with IndyCar's Justin Wilson!

The IndyCar series swings through our city for the 2009 Rexall Edmonton Indy from July 24th to the 26th over at the Rexall Speedway in the city centre.

British driver Justin Wilson will be there - in the past four years, he's finished fourth, first, second and third in Edmonton, respectively. Earlier today I had a chance to chat with Wilson about an exciting weekend and his thoughts on the upcoming race in our city!

Listen to the interview HERE:




JK: You’ve had success in Canada - first Champ Car win in Toronto 2005, third place finish in Montreal - and you’ve fared pretty well in Edmonton too the last few years. Are you looking forward to another shot at the race here?

JW: Yeah, I always enjoy this track and I've been on the podium most years. So hopefully we can get back on that top step and get things moving again here in Edmonton.

JK: What do you like about the Edmonton Indy?

JW: It's just a great atmosphere and the fans that come out and support it - it's just fantastic to race in front of them and put on a good show. The track itself is very demanding, it's probably one of the most physical we come across all season because it's such high speeds and big cornering loads and no rest. You're turning pretty much the whole way round the track! I like that challenge and I like everything it does for a driver, the way it challenges you in every aspect.

JK: I’m sure you’re still buzzing after a huge, emotional win on Sunday at Watkins Glen. No shortage of storylines there - with the win, you give Dale Coyne his first victory as an owner in 23 years. Tell me about that whole experience...

JW: It was just fantastic, still on a high after a great weekend and to go out to Watkins Glen, on such a famous, historic race track [was exciting]. We generally went out there and were fast and was able to overtake Ryan Briscoe, take the lead and control the race from then on. So I've just got to thank everyone at Dale Coyne racing for working so hard and giving me the opportunity to drive this year. This is the best way I could to thank them for their support and also Z-Line Designs, who is our sponsor this year, they've been fantastic. We've had some difficult times but I think this more than makes up for it.

JK: And a bit of revenge over Ryan Briscoe too!

JW: Yeah! It was actually very similar circumstances at the first race of the year in St. Petersburg where I was leading, he was second, with a late restart on the yellow. He managed to get the jump on me there but it wasn't happening a second time I'll tell you! I was trying hard on that restart and opened up a nice gap, and from that point on my life was a lot easier.

JK: I bet! I read somewhere that you called this the most important win of your career. Why is that?

JW: Well, mainly because it's the first win for Dale and Dale Coyne Racing. He's been working at this for 25 years, somebody told me it was 558 starts without winning a race and it was pretty emotional to be the driver to give him that first win. Also, we're a growing team; we don't have the budget of the Gnassi's or the Penske's. We're still trying to work things out and improve, and to go out there and beat those on the day is just a really great feeling; to know that you've done everything right and it pays off - all your hard work is rewarded.

JK: And back to the Rexall Edmonton Indy - you’re obviously coming into the race on a high note. Is this going to be a breakthrough year for you?

JW: I hope so. We've still got some improvements to do; we feel like we're good on the street and the road circuits. We've got to work on our oval set up a bit more and I think that will come with time. We'll do a few tests and improve, but right now we're focused on the road courses and I think we've got a good shot here at Edmonton. I'll give it everything I can to go out there and claim another victory!

JK: Thanks so much for your time Justin. We’ll see ya at the track!

JW: See you at the track!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: All-Star bonus for STL?

The City of St. Louis is hoping for some big names at the 2009 MLB All-Star game being played in that city this year. I'm sure the fans are too, but for a totally different reason.

You see, the city hopes to get its share of extra money that any players might be pocketing as a result of being voted into the big game. Players aren't paid to play in All-Star games, but many have big bonuses from their teams if they are selected.

Why should the host city of an event get any money from the players? Even if it is just a one per cent tax, what gives them the right? That's ridiculous in my eyes!

It's nothing new for sports teams travelling through the 'Loo though.

According to STLtoday.com, the tax is routinely applied to visiting professional athletes who swing through town, and all National League teams that regularly play the St. Louis Cardinals even have accounts with the collectors office!

It doesn't stop at the players either, anyone that travels with the team, right down to the water boy, is subject to the tax. Are you kidding me?

The article goes on to say that in the last six or so years, the city has "earned" over $7-million in taxes from MLB players...and I'm sure when you factor in the NFL's Rams, the NHL's Blues and all the teams they play each year, you're looking at a far bigger number.

The argument from the players side in this case is that if a player earns an All-Star bonus it's for his work prior to the game (the reason he is voted in), not necessarily for playing in the game itself. So they aren't earning that bonus in St. Louis - they've been earning it all season long.

Is it worth challenging though? Probably not, the government tends to win these types of battles.

Again - one per cent is a small price to pay to ply your trade in the city of St. Louis, but why should visiting pro athletes have to pay a price?

Got an opinion? Lemme hear it!
Let Kerrzy read it to you here:






Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Happy Canada Day!

You probably won't be surprised to hear that when I think about Canada Day I think of sports...

Not so much sports by themselves - I think about how sports band the country together in a way that nothing else does.

One of my most fond memories is visiting my grandpa while I was down in Calgary for hockey during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Yeah, yeah I know - how could it be a fond memory if I was in Calgary...but hear me out!

It was the Gold Medal game between Canada and the United States - I'm sure we all remember Canada winning 5-2 and capturing the top prize, Olympic Gold, for the first time in 50 years.

Trying to get out of Calgary that afternoon was almost as hard as trying not to tear up during the national anthem.

The streets were lined with people all cheering, honking their horns, high-fiving out of their car windows with complete strangers. It literally took me almost as long to drive home as it did to get out of the city, and it was something I'll really never forget.

So, when I think of Canada day I think of the things that bring us together, despite all of the things that pull us apart.

Whether it's Edmonton vs. Calgary, Tory vs. Liberal or any other rivalry that shapes our day-to-day lives, there are certain things that wipe all of those things away.

I think that's something that makes us special because that's not something you see everywhere around the world.

Happy Canada day (even if you're in Calgary)!