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4/17/2007 02:16:00 PM

Marathon Madness

Marathon Madness
Only the most dedicated fans did not throw in the towel during the Canucks-Stars 4-OT playoff game on April 11.
By John Rolfe, SI.com

The NHL prides itself on conducting the most grueling tournament in sports each spring, and it's safe to say that hardcore hockey fans embrace endurance contests like the four-overtime marathon between Vancouver and Dallas on April 11 until the final buzzer, the Samsonites under their bleary peepers a badge of honor to be proudly worn the following morning.

With networks and prime time ad revenue wagging the sports mutt, even regulation games routinely run over the other side of midnight on work and school nights, so you have to be hardy –- and cuddle an urn of black coffee or a nice tub of crystal meth –- to stay focused on the action through crossed-eyes. Even day games that go on forever present challenges in terms of family strife, gastric distress, dwindling fundage (if you're in the stands) and flirting with phlebitis, a stiff back and a numb caboose from sitting so long.

Perhaps my proudest -- or daffiest –- such moment was the four-OT playoff extravaganza between the Islanders and Capitals on Saturday night, April 18, 1987. I had just moved into a new house and cable had yet to be installed, so I listened to the game on radio. All of it. Had to. It was Game 7 of the Patrick Division semifinals and I couldn't bear to go to bed with the fate of my beloved Isles hanging in the balance.

The game lasted almost seven hours. While the players were, in some cases, losing up to 15 pounds, I was gaining them from compulsively munching on chips, cold cuts, cookies, leftover stuffed cabbage, pickles, wheat crackers, an ancient chicken leg unearthed from deep in the fridge, an entire pound cake and, quite likely, a dish towel or two. Not being able to see what was happening made for sheer torture, especially after the OTs set in. My nerves were continually victimized by the rising volume of the announcers -- I seem to recall TV voices Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall were also doing radio -- particularly when the Caps came close to scoring.

I sat. I stood. I paced in shifts that were somewhat longer than the 20-second outings the hobbling Isles and Caps began enjoying on the ice as the night dragged on. Ultimately, my cat and sleeping wife paid the price, too. When Pat LaFontaine finally potted the game-winner at 8:47 of the fourth OT, I let out a loud scream, jumped up and down in a frantic war dance and went leaping down the hall, my unbridled joy scaring the holy hell out of Wubbins and my betrothed. It was 2 a.m., but I was too stoked to sleep for at least another hour.

Now, it's one thing to hang on a seven-hour game when there is something at stake, but it takes a fan of the highest caliber of dedication and derangement to stick with all 25 innings of a relatively meaningless early-season contest like the one between the White Sox and Brewers on May 8, 1984. Or all 3 OTs of the Suns showdown with 7-21 Knicks on Jan. 2, 2006. (Any old-timers out there veterans of the 6-OT NBA classic between Indianapolis and Rochester on Jan. 6, 1951?).

So just how crazy are you? Calculate your degree of partisan madness by awarding yourself points if you've ever:

* Followed every minute of a game that lasted five hours or more (rain delays included): 10 points (deduct 5 if you fell asleep at any point).
* Followed it on a weeknight when you had to be at work or class early the next morning: 15 points (bonus of 20 for regular-season game)
* Attended the game: 20 points (bonus of 20 for regular-season weeknight)
* Watched it at home: 10 points (bonus of 40 for regular-season weeknight)
* Listened all of it on radio: 30 points (bonus of 25 for regular-season weeknight).
* Followed all of it on the internet (on perpetually-updated box score only): 40 points (bonus of 100 for regular-season game)
* Kept score for most of it. 50 points (bonus of 500 for regular-season game)
* Kept score for all of it: 100 points (bonus of 1,000 for regular-season game)
* Bonus of 5,000 if you do any of this on a regular basis

Madness scale: 0-100: Don’t make us laugh
100-495: A momentary lapse of reason
500-750: Genuine cause for concern
755 -995: Hearing voices (Bob Uecker, Mike Lange, etc.)
1,000-1,335: Gates of Delirium

Over 1,335: Book yourself Le Rubber Room at the asylum

When you're done calculating your grade, tell us about your most memorable marathon experience.

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4/12/2007 05:26:00 PM

Don Imus

Don Imus
CBS fired Don Imus midway through his annual Radiothon fundraiser on Thursday.
By Richard Deitsch, SI.com

A little more than a week after Don Imus made disparaging comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team, CBS did something once thought to be impossible:

They shut Imus up.

This was no local deejay in Omaha that was silenced. Imus is a rainmaker, a giant figure in the broadcasting industry who became an even more valuable property for the company after Howard Stern bolted for satellite radio last year. His Imus In The Morning show generated $15 million in annual revenue for CBS and his work on behalf of kids with cancer brought him much-deserved praise. This was a man Time magazine once placed on its list of the 25 Most Influential People in America. His fall was stunning and swift.

Perhaps a broadcasting giant like Imus might have survived in a different climate, one that did not include watchdogs in all forms, from Media Matters for America to Gawker to The Big Lead. The latter, a sports web blog, had its own media moment early last week. After ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd advised his listeners to flood the web site, ultimately bringing it down for more than two days because its server could not handle the bandwidth, Cowherd’s actions were excoriated by a passionate band of sports blogs who covered the incident as if it were Watergate. Quickly, ESPN ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber tracked down Traug Keller, senior vice president, ESPN Radio, who declared, “Our airwaves are a trust, and not to be used to hurt anyone's business. Such attacks are off limits. Zero tolerance. I can’t say it any stronger." Cowherd eventually apologized.

Blogs form every hour. You Tube shapes opinion by the second. Was there anyone in America with an interest in Imus who did not see the following clip or had the link forwarded to them? The Imus story snowballed as fast as any media-related item in recent history, an "avalanche," one radio host called it today. Shortly after Imus uttered his remarks about the Rutgers players, Media Matters highlighted the comments on its Web site. Bloggers quickly weighed in. Then came the mainstream press. Protests and rallies formed against his show. Imus apologized and apologized but the tsunami kept gaining. There was wall-to-wall cable coverage to an op-ed in The New York Times by PBS host Gwen Ifil, an African-American journalist once singed by Imus’s insensitive tongue. Sponsors soon pulled out of his show. On Wednesday, MSNBC dropped the simulcast of Imus' show. By Thursday, he no longer had an employer.

Few right-minded people would argue over the language Imus and his cohorts used to describe the Scarlet Knight players. It was reprehensible. Nor was it the first time Imus had crossed the line with racially tinged remarks. Those of us who grew up on Stern might argue that Imus’s time had past long ago. But the forces that took Imus down, in addition to his own self-immolation, speak to something larger going on in the media. Never before have the words of broadcasters, journalists and professional pundits been so closely scrutinized. The watchers have become the watchdogs.

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4/10/2007 12:47:00 PM

Apologies We'd Love to Hear

You've seen our gallery of the apologies we'd love to hear. Which one would you add to the list?
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2/27/2007 03:31:00 PM

Memorable Injury Cover-ups

When the subject comes up of injured players covering up how they actually hurt themselves, Irving Fryar and Jeff Kent come immediately to mind. But surely there are others who fit the same bill. What infamous incidents do you recall?
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2/27/2007 03:19:00 PM

High School wrestling rules

This year the National Federation of High Schools implemented rules for how much weight wrestlers can lose, how quickly they can lose it and what minimum body-fat levels should be. Some coaches love the rules, saying they have kept wrestlers true to their natural weight. Others believe the system is a waste of time and expensive. What do you think?
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2/22/2007 04:07:00 PM

Landmark Moments

Women's sports won a big victory with Wimbledon finally agreeing to make the payout for female tennis players the same as for men. You've seen our gallery of memorable landmark moments in gender equity. Which ones would you add to the list and/or which barrier do you hope will fall next?
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