Top 5 Sports Stories

Happy Wednesday everyone, here's my Top 5 for February 22, 2012 from Len Berman at

1. Quick Hits

  • Mets manager Terry Collins anticipates Johan Santana will be ready for opening day. Santana hasn't pitched since September of 2010 following shoulder surgery.
  • The Cubs sent the Red Sox right-handed reliever Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later as compensation for signing Boston general manager Theo Epstein.
  • In golf, the Match Play Championship begins today in Arizona with 32 matches. Tiger Woods' opponent, Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano says Woods is beatable. The last guy who said that, Stephen Ames, got obliterated.
  • The latest Lin-Sanity. Jeremy Lin has made the cover of Sports Illustrated for the second straight week.

2. The End of an Era?

There will be plenty of time for the tributes. When he retires, when he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years later, when the Yanks retire his number. But for now, the great Mariano Rivera is just hinting at retirement. He is simply the best he is at what he does. A record 603 career saves. He was standing on the mound for four World Series clinchings, also a record. If he retires this fall at the age of 42 there's nice symmetry. He's the last player who will ever wear #42 in deference to Jackie Robinson. Fitting. Mo's the last of a breed.

3. Words to Live By

It ranks third, right behind "Win one for the Gipper" and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too." Mets manager Terry Collins says the message he wants to deliver is, "We're better than people think we are." Feel better Mets fans?

4. Your Turn

You guys burned up the Internet with your responses to William Rhoden's column in the Times. He raised the question of race when it comes to Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. He says they are praised for their faith and humility. He wonders why black athletes are not similarly lauded.

*D.R. How about Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Arthur Ashe, Muhammad Ali, and Willie Mays, to name just a few African-American athletes venerated by whites and blacks.

*R.M. The NYT article rings true. A similar story was the elevation of Akebono (native Hawaiian) to yokozuna (highest rating) in Japanese sumo. Or imagine the uproar in China if a Westerner became the country table tennis champion. Or a white guy winning a marathon in Kenya.

*M.G. I make no claims to be an expert on matters of race or pop or sports culture. But for me, the better comparison for Lin is Victor Cruz -- an unheralded position player who comes out of nowhere to raise the level of his teammates' play. And I'm pretty sure that Cruz is neither white nor Asian.

*T.S. I think your title for the paragraph (The Race Card) sums up what Rhoden is doing. I think if Rhoden wants to imply one of the worst crimes in this politically correct society (i.e., racism), he needs to make a better argument.

*S.S. Why does the race issue have to be continually raised? I am sick of it. Why can't we just praise or criticize players for how they perform, not what they are?

5. A Miracle

Perhaps it's the one sports event that people remember where they were when it happened. The U.S. beating the Russians in hockey. I was stuck on an airplane and the pilot was kind enough to give us updates. People have written me with their stories. One of the most compelling: fans running along freeways in L.A. waving American flags. It's the first time I recall the chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A" being delivered with such passion. It was a rare feel-good moment which brought us all together, 32 years ago today.

Happy Birthday: The one the only Dr. J, Julius Erving. 62.
Bonus Birthday: C'mon, give it up for the Father of our Country. George Washington was born on this date in 1732.

Today in Sports: Do you believe in miracles? The underdog U.S. hockey team shocks the Russians 4-3 at the Lake Placid Olympics. (Yes, it's featured in my Times best seller, The Greatest Moments in Sports). 1980.
Bonus Event: The very first Daytona 500 is held and it's won by Lee Petty. 1959.

I'll go Spanning the World on NBC's Today Show tomorrow morning in the 8:30am half hour. And nobody got hurt!

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