McCarver on revisionist history: Torre’s treatment by the Yankees was Nazi-esque

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You can never go wrong with a Nazi reference.

Or is it, you can always go wrong? …

Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver used some questionable analogies during Saturday’s Yankees-Rays regional telecast to describe how the Yankees have seemed to blot out the accomplishments of former manager Joe Torre, the Sports Business Daily reviews in its edition today.

It cites first a New York Post story (linked here) that transcribes McCarver as saying:

“You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had … taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot ‘em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there’s no sign of Joe Torre at the stadium. And, that’s ridiculous.”

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McCarver added that “to the Yankees credit, Joe Torre’s No. 6 has not been worn since Torre has (left). That has got to be resolved. You just can’t ignore a guy who did what Joe Torre did.”

The SBD cites a story by Sporting News.com’s Adam Hutchins (linked here), who also wrote: “No question that McCarver made an absurdly inarticulate comparison between an authentic tragedy and a dispute between a millionaire and his former employer … (it) remains to be seen what, if any, punishment McCarver will face.”

SportingNews.com also had a clip of the rant on its site via YouTube but has had to take it down because of copyright claim by MLB Advanced Media.

The SBD also includes a blog comment by St. Petersburg Press’ Tom Jones (linked here: “Attacking the Yankees over Torre is fine, but we’re going to compare this to things that happened in Nazi Germany and the old Soviet Union and during World War II? Really? … This is just sports, people! Memo to everyone: Let’s stop using references to Nazis and slavery and other things such as the Sept. 11 attacks, world wars, Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden and anything in the real world.”

And USA Today’s Michael Hiestand writes: “(It) should probably go without saying that it’s not a great idea to compare sports front office moves with, say, killings in the Nazi and Soviet systems.” Hiestand: “Kind of a stretch to compare Torre’s fate … to those of military officers executed by their own governments.”

The Yankees-Rays game was not aired in the Southern California market on Saturday — instead, we saw the Dodgers-Cardinals game from St. Louis with Joe Buck and Eric Karros on the call. McCarver worked that game Saturday with Kenny Albert as his broadcast partner.

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Play it forward: July 19-25 on your sports calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

MONDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m.:

An industrious reporter recently pointed out that in the post-All-Star-break schedule, the Dodgers have the toughest road head of any other team — 58 games on the schedule against teams with records above. 500. And that’s after already struggling against the Angels, Yankees and Red Sox in one of the most brutal interleague schedule. They knocked out four of those games last weekend in St. Louis, but buster, they don’t get a break with the Giants, thanks to Buster Posey pushing himself all over the lineup. (By the way: The team with perhaps the easiest road the rest of the way: The Cincinnati Reds, who’ve got to play 25 games against teams with winning records). The Dodgers bring back James McDonald to try to fill a hole with the latest struggles by John Ely.

TUESDAY

MLB: Angels at New York Yankees, 4 p.m., FSW:

After all the drama of George Steinbrenner’s passing, and the Yankees’ annual Old-Timers’ Game, the Angels come into town to play two games in less than 24 hours. Maybe Joe Girardi will allow Alex Rodriguez to play this time.

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MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Channel 9:

It’s James Loney bobbleheads to the “first 50,000 valid tickets.” So, who can get into the game with an invalid ticket? James Loney, of course.

WEDNESDAY

MLB: Angels at New York Yankees, 10 a.m., FSW:

The last meeting of the year between the two, unless, like seemingly every year, they meet in the playoffs.

MLB: Dodgers vs. Giants, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:

The season series against the Giants is only half over. There’s nine more to go in August and September.

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Horse racing: Del Mar race track, opening day, first post, 2 p.m.:

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In our search for a horse racing track that accepts checks and credit cards at the parimutual window — hey, we’re good for it — we’ll try the opener of the 37-day meeting at Del Mar that runs through Sept. 8. It includes the “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest” today, plus Friday summer concerts (including ZZ Top, B-52s, Jimmy Cliff, and the ever-popular Super Diamond), and a microbrew festival in late August. Drive, take a limo, a double-decker bus, or walk (start now) — maybe even go on horseback — but we’ll be on the train, checking out the latest fares and stops at Amtrak (linked here). Meanwhile, the Daily Racing Form says Zenyatta, who won the Vanity Stakes at Hollywood Park last month, is on schedule to race on Aug. 7 in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, which she won in ’08 and ’09. All aboard.

THURSDAY

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The Justice League of Mannywood has added this to-do for the do-ragged Manny Ramirez fans — you still get his action figure in tonight’s giveaway even if he’s back on the DL. Go figure.

Golf: Senior British Open, first round, 10 a.m., ESPN2:

This year, it’s Carnoustie, Scotland, and we’ll still put our droons on Tom Watson for the win (he did it in ’03, ’05 and ’07). By the way, the U.S. Senior Open is next week in Seattle, if you’re thinking of making that 10-hour flight nonstop after this one ends.

MLS: Galaxy vs. San Jose, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2:

Like we need another earthquake scare in these parts.

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MLB: Angels at Texas, 5 p.m., FSW:

Seven of the Angels’ next 10 games are against the team ahead of them in the AL West. Time to make hay. And intentionally walk Vlad Guerrero every time he comes up. Cliff Lee’s spot in the rotation may come up here for the Rangers.

FRIDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Mets, 7 p.m., Prime:

Did we mention that the Mets are getting Carlos Beltran back from injury, the pitching staff has been pretty hot, and they’ve got a pretty cake second-half schedule — easier than the NL East-leading Braves, for sure. The Mets have yet to play Arizona, Houston and Pittsburgh — the three last-place teams in each division.

MLB: Angels at Texas, 5 p.m., FSW:

Aside from Big Daddy Vladdy, somehow, Darren Oliver and Benjie Molina figure to could play a role in the Rangers’ success against their old teammates this weekend.

SATURDAY

MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Mets, 1 p.m., Channel 11:

The stat that Vin Scully likes to bring up when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound: In every one of his starts this far, he’s never set the opponents down 1-2-3 in the first inning. He opened the second half of the season pitching in St. Louis last week, and couldn’t get over that hump again. We’re going to guess that earlier this week against the Giants, it happened again. This will be his scheduled 20th start of the year. Let’s go back to this one.

MLB: Angels at Texas, 5 p.m., FSW:

How, again, are the Rangers, a team in bankruptcy, able to go out and make big-name deals?

SUNDAY

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MLB: Hall of Fame induction ceremony, 10:30 a.m., MLB Network:

Cooperstown becomes Dawson’s Creek on this day. Not an iconic class of those voted in this year — Andre Dawson, with umpire Doug Harvey and former manager Whitey Herzog — but just soak in the ceremony as something that’s a part of the summer that should never go away. ESPN’s John Miller will also be inducted into the broadcasters wing, meaning he’ll miss tonight’s St. Louis-Chicago telecast from Wrigley Field.

MLB: Angels at Texas, 5 p.m., Channel 13:

Three more meetings next week in Anaheim, and seven more in late September and the first week of October (the last three in Texas) to end the regular season. By the way, on July 28, it marks the 16th anniversary of Kenny Rogers’ perfect game against the Angels, while he was still jerking around with the Rangers

MLB: Dodgers vs. New York Mets, 1 p.m., Prime:

Somehow, ESPN didn’t pick this one up for its prime-time window? Guess Prime Ticket will have to do.

NASCAR: Brickyard 400, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 10 a.m., ESPN:

Question: How many laps in the Brickyard 400? A hundred sixty, of course. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 2.5 miles long. Do the math. Another question: Has a woman ever competed in this race? Nope. Shawna Robinson tried, but failed to qualify for the race in 2001. Take that to the brickyard and make dust of it.

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It’s Out of the Question: A commissioner who knows his stuff in the McCourt of law

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Who’s this Scott Gordon, and how could he the missing piece to completing the most important transaction in L.A. sports history this young decade?

He’s not the backup point guard from Oklahoma City who the Lakers think they sign for the veteran’s minimum? The Dodgers’ call-up from Albuquerque to replace George Sherrill? On the Kings’ radar if Kovalehuk chucks the whole idea of coming here?

Try the L.A. Superior Court commissioner barked loudly from the bench this week at Frank and Jamie McCourt — he told the current Dodger caretakers that they’d best get this divorce liquidation proposition figured out fast or else “the parties are unintentionally pushing the court toward an interesting position – selling the asset which is being fought over” – but wouldn’t it have had more bite if that actually came from the baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, who refuses to have an opinion?

“Take Gordon’s remark as, more than anything else, a reflection on how acrimonious — and, really, tedious — this entire proceeding has become,” writes L.A. native, Minneapolis law student and federal judge intern Josh Fisher on his astute blog DodgerDivorce.com. “While I get the strategic value of having six more weeks before this thing hits trial, I get the sense that most everyone connected to this saga is ready for the endgame to at least, you know, begin.”

So, is it game on? Or can either of them afford to risk their non-liquid assets and their battered reps to play this all out before a magistrate?

== So there’s this jagged fan in Jacksonville who launched a cartoonish website called NoWayLA.com, objecting to overtures that the Jaguars can be coaxed from their swamp-land paradise to sign up for Fast Eddie’s City o’ Industry strip mall, trying to cement his case by pointing out that no pro football team has survived here – not the Rams, Raiders, Chargers or Dons.

Then someone at LAObserved.com added in the XFL’s Xtreme and the USFL’s Express, and, perhaps the 1926 Buccaneers, plus the Dragons of the aborted Spring Football League.

Have we already forgotten the AFL’s Avengers, and their predecessors at the Sports Arena, the Cobras?

The point is: If you’re up to the task of trashing SoCal pro pigskin, make sure all 10 fingers are free to count on, OK?

And don’t forget: We’re fourth in line for a UFL franchise . . .

== So this Thierry Henry lad is going to Beckham-ize kickball on the East Coast – by using his hands?

== A major website poses this one: What’s better for the growth of United States soccer – Landon Donovan playing in the MLS or playing in one of Europe’s top leagues? What about phrasing it this way: What’s better for Donovan’s on-and-off-and-on relationship with Bianca Kajlich?

== Who needs Raja Bell?

== Can Kobe send his helicopter to the Pacoima In-N-Out drive-thru to snatch Shannon Brown from his summer job and bring him back to the roster? If not, ask his crew manager, Tracy McGrady?

== Why hasn’t head-butting caught on sooner in the Tour de France?

thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com

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Your ultimate Steinbrenner tribute: A ‘Seinfeld’ week on TBS

“Who else could be a memorable character on a television show without actually appearing on the show?” Jerry Seinfeld said Tuesday, after hearing the news that George Steinbrenner had died at the age of 80. “You felt George even though he wasn’t there. That’s how huge a force of personality he was.”

TBS will run 10 “Seinfeld” episodes for a week starting Monday that feature “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David as the Yankees owner — always shot from behind, never on camera. David played Steinbrenner on 14 episodes.

The schedule:

Monday:
4 p.m. : “The Opposite” – George convinces Steinbrenner to give him a job.
4:30 p.m. “The Secretary” – George finds out Steinbrenner’s secretary makes more than he does.

Tuesday:
4 p.m. “The Race” – George heads to Cuba to recruit baseball players for Steinbrenner.
4:30 p.m.”The Wink” – Steinbrenner lists all the people he’s fired over the years.

Wednesday:
4 p.m. “The Hot Tub” – Steinbrenner convinces George that a hot tub is the perfect way to relieve stress.
4:30 p.m. “The Caddy” – George’s father (Jerry Stiller) confronts Steinbrenner about a traded player.

Thursday:
4 p.m.: “The Calzone” – Steinbrenner gets the idea to put Yankees clothes in a pizza oven.
4:30 p.m. “The Nap” – George’s napping habits at work lead Steinbrenner to think he has ESP.

Friday:
4 p.m. “The Millennium” – George does everything he can to get fired, but Steinbrenner loves what he does.
4:30 p.m. “The Muffin Tops” – George’s relationship with the Yankees finally ends when Steinbrenner trades him.

There are YouTube clips, of course, of the Steinbrenner episodes, linked here and here.

What about the time Steinbrenner actually appeared on the show?

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The Media Learning Curve: July 9-16

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We abstained from getting into 3D mode during Fox’s experiment in covering the MLB All-Star Game from Angel Stadium through DirecTV with the new technology, so we’ll have to rely on others to convey their thoughts on it.

Like, for starters, the guy in charge.

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“Baseball is definitely one of the top couple of sports in 3D,” said Fox Sports President Eric Shanks told the Sports Business Daily. “We see a lot of potential for this sport in this.”

Because of the dugout suites at Angel Stadium, Fox and DirecTV were not able to replicate exactly the low camera position directly behind home plate, instead using a spot slightly to the right up the first base side. That shift, in turn, made it more difficult to see the ball coming out of the pitchers’ hands, SBD reported.

Yahoo.com Sports’ Kevin Kaduk said ESPN’s 3D coverage of Home Run Derby was uneven with some shots “jaw-dropping” and outfield shots “unremarkable” and “distracting.”

The Seattle Times’ Jerry Brewer, reviewing two Yankees-Mariners games in Seattle that were shown on the YES network and FSN Northwest last weekend to test-drive the technology, wrote:

“I have seen the future, and it looks like, well, wow. High-definition television is awesome, but three-dimensional sports viewing is almost beyond description. It’s still in the fine-tuning phase, but at its best, watching sports in 3D will allow you not only to see the game better, but also to understand and relate to it on a different level.”

Just remember: New 3D TVs run as much as $4,500, plus $150 for a good pair of glasses. And you can’t really pass ‘em around as you’re watching.

So watch out.

Spinning off more notes after today’s media column (linked here):

== GQ, because it can, has a Top 5 and Bottom 5 list of baseball TV broadcasters (linked here), which is head surprisingly by … Vin Scully, who “has a story about almost everyone, on each team, and … he never comes close to hysterics, or any other cheap broadcasting trick. Listening to Scully has a sedative effect, in the best possible way, and one quickly settles into the game like a lullaby. Broadcasters, pay attention, this is your master’s class.”

No. 5 on the good list includes new Angels team Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza, but it says Rojas replaced “the dismissed Steve Physioc, and so far, so good.” Except Rojas really replaced the late Rory Markas. Another thought: “The only knock on these guys might be that their attempts at in-game humor usually fall flat, and that Rojas can be snarky. Still, this is a promising pair and they’re developing a good on-air relationship.”

The bottom 5: Apparently the guy doesn’t hear Eric Collins and Steve Lyons much. They missed out.

== SI.com’s Richard Deitsch’s media power rankings for June and July (linked here) somehow include Jim Gray and ESPN’s “The Decision.”

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But he also includes Emmet Smith, the deputy design director for news at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who devised this cover:

Deitsch writes: “For those who celebrate the daily elegance of the newspaper front page, it was a gift of genius: LeBron James walking out of the frame, flanked by a single word headline: GONE.” With an arrow pointing to his right hand that said: “7 Years In Cleveland, No Rings.” Deitsch said that Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post called it one of the greatest front pages in newspaper history.

ESPN.com’s Page 2 writer Dave Wilson (linked here) adds:

“The cover has been a huge topic of discussion in social media and sparked the most popular story of the day on USA Today’s website. Most feedback has been positive, but there has been criticism that it took too much of an editorial view, which isn’t traditionally found in regular news sections.”

“‘If you look at the wording on it, there’s not a thing on it that’s not true,’ (Plain-Dealer visuals editor David) Kordalski said. ‘He’s gone. True. He was here seven years. True. No rings? True.’”

== Your MLB weekend card: Saturday’s Fox game (Channel 11, 1 p.m.) has Joe Buck and Eric Karros on the Dodgers-Cardinals game from St. Louis (going to 27 percent of the country, including here of course), while 72 percent get the Tampa Bay-N.Y. Yankees game from Yankee Stadium on Old-Timers’ Day with Kenny Albert, Tim McCarver and Ken Rosenthal.

McCarver, a former Yankees broadcaster for three years, said in a Fox release about what it was like working for George Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday: “Any employee of George will remember him very vividly. There was more than one occasion that I upset him on the air but I got along with him fine. I’m not too sure that he was real happy with some things I said on air but that’s probably the case with a lot of broadcasters with George.”

Sunday’s Rays-Yankees game will be carried by TBS (10 a.m., Dick Stockton and Ron Darling), while the Phillies-Cubs from Wrigley Field is the ESPN Sunday night game (5 p.m.), which won’t be threatened by a delayed broadcast of the ESPY Awards.

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== We appreciate the multi-network coverage of the British Open that DirecTV has offered starting with the first round, a free four-screen delivery that includes the live ESPN coverage, a featured hole (the first and 18th), the 17th “road hole,” and a channel with the international feed.

== Hurry, before ESPN takes it off YouTube:

== ESPN Digital Media reports that 4.9 billion minutes were spent on World Cup content across multiple platforms during the recent month-long event in South Africa — that’s ESPN.com, ESPN3.com video streaming, ESPN Mobile Web, ESPN Mobile Apps and ESPN Mobile TV. They report an average of more than 110,000 fans per minute used ESPN Digital Media to consume World Cup content during the 31 days. ESPN3.com had 7.4 million unique users. All 54 matches were streamed, with the Spain-Germany semifinal the largest views (355,000).

== AND FINALLY:

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== AdWeek.com (linked here), of all websites, has been reporting on how video game players are complaining about too much advertising on EA Sports’ new “Madden NFL 11,” that will come out next month.

A controversy “has erupted in the blogosphere over how much in-game advertising” included, said the story.

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There’s a new player feature, for example, called “Swagger,” described as “a unique new rating sponsored by Old Spice to quantify a player’s personality … reflected through in-game celebrations.”

It means it will weigh a player’s tendency to show off in the end zone after a touchdown.

The NFL is “all about sponsorship and co-branding.” The league’s games “seem to have a commercial interruption every three minutes and sponsors sponsoring sponsors,” the story continues. “The “irony here is that the encroachment of a supposedly more subtle form of advertising, branded content, made bloggers so furious that many claimed they would rather watch a plain, old-school interruptive TV commercial in the middle of the Madden NFL game.”

About a month ago, on the EA Sports blogs, a screen shot of “Madden NFL 11″‘s innovations was inadvertently leaked — new QB rankings, a new kicking engine, new commentary — and this “Swagger” element.

Old Spice is “the official deodorant and body wash” of the NFL, and Swagger is the name of one of its product lines.

One blogger wrote: “What’s next — a hot wife rating?”

Sure, if it shows the player has extra swagger.

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Argggggg, kiddies: Your favorite Dodgers got a leg up on a promotion for a bottle of 70 proof spiced rum

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Jack Dempsey/AP
Captain Morgan and some stowaways pose in front of Dodger Stadium for a name-brand exchange that is sure to make Walter O’Malley turn over in his cocktail.

Just catching up with some photos we staggered across, with Dodger players goofing around at Dodger Stadium last week with a guy dressed up as Captain Morgan and promoting the volitale alcoholic drink stopped by to see what kind of trouble he could stir up.

Maybe the kids thought it a promotion for “Pirates of the Carribbean.” Yeah, right, son, and those other two are just … his friends.

Maybe he was Captain Hook from “Peter Pan.” Isn’t that right, Sparky Anderson?

Some of the shots we found:

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Jack Dempsey/AP
Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo knows how to deliver a game-saving high-ball-five to the Captain.

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Jack Dempsey/AP
Dodgers pitcher Travis Schlichting got the pose, with a couple of hot totties to go along with it.

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Jack Dempsey/AP
Same for Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake, who has a good captain beard going himself. Hope the wife has this one signed and up on the mantle.

Don’t worry Dodgers. This went pretty much under the wire. Except that it was picked up on TheBigLead.com (linked here), where commenters had a field day.

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Our Daily Dread: The almighty ring

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Bryant Gumbel’s signoff commentary from Wednesday night’s “Real Sports” on HBO dealt with something that’s been causing me to grind my teeth at night — well, I do that anyway, which is why I need a new mouth guard, but it’s for other reasons, really, but this contributes to it ….

Gumbel said:

“Finally tonight, a few words about championship rings.

“Just when did they become the all-important barometer of who does or doesn’t count in sports? When did they supersede personal excellence or exemplary character as a standard of greatness?

“I got to thinking about that the other night after the self-anointed chosen one, LeBron James, embarrassed himself as he tried to make his decision to seek rings in Miami sound like a search for the Holy Grail. It’s when he essentially admitted to placing a higher priority on winning than anything else.

“LeBron’s decision is typical of our immediate gratification era, but it flies in the face of history. Even though he never won a title, Dan Marino is still the biggest hero in Florida. And in Boston, all those Celtics championships are dimmed by the unforgettable brilliance of Ted Williams, who never won anything. In Chicago, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus have legendary status despite playing on losing teams. And even in the NBA, where guys seem obsessed with being viewed as ‘the man’, real men like Barkley, Ewing and Baylor are ringless, but revered.

“Despite such evidence to the contrary, LeBron James seems to think he needs a ring to change his life and secure his legacy. Maybe he’ll get one, maybe he won’t, but it’s probable that no amount of rings will ever remove the stench he wallowed in last week. LeBron may yet find that in the court of public opinion, just as putting on a tux can’t make a guy a gentleman, winning a ring can’t make one truly a champion.”

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We’ve got a different spin.

When did athletes start talking about winning a championship ring?

What’s so wrong about just winning a championship?

I hear Little League kids today talking about “winning the ring.” And college athletes.

It’s not a reference to the old “brass ring,” a phrase people that age don’t even know about any more — ask your grandparents, it has to do with riding a carousel. It’s about the pursuit of a piece of jewelry that most won’t even wear because of the fear that it’ll be stolen. So they put it in a safe deposit box.

So, then, why is acquiring a ring so important if you don’t even show it off? Because that’s called modesty. Not calling attention to yourself. And a fear of some crazy guy holding you up and swiping it.

Rings can be used as collateral, apparently. Ask a pawn shop owner. Rings can be resold on eBay. Or maybe they’re reproductions. We’re not sure.

We turned on the ESPY Awards last night for about 10 seconds — long enough to hear Seth Meyers tell a joke: Congradulations to Phil Jackson for winning his 11th championship. Eleven rings. One for each finger and we don’t want to know where he’s going to put this new one.

Great, a penis joke is now associated with winning a ring.

The bottom line: You can’t be totally satisfied with knowing you’ve won a championship. You need the “ring ceremony” to validate it? Ask the Lakers players when they open the 2010-11 season with another big to-do about it. Ring in the new year, the headlines will say.

Satisfaction sure takes a lot of extra work these days.

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‘Shaq Vs.’ could use a shot of Pop-A-Shot, right Jimmy?

Ricardo “The Busboy” Reyes. Now there’s someone who should have his own TV show.

If you saw the Barney’s Beanery legend with his white T-shirt and white apron and blue jeans destroy NBA stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Charles Barkley and Carmelo Anthony in his speciality – arcade Pop-a-Shot — during Jimmy Kimmel’s NBA Finals special shows on ABC, there’s no denying that Reyes deserved the 2011 red Ford Mustang as his prize from the show.

Which drags us sadly to Shaquille O’Neal.

The former Lakers star is all set for another six-episode season of the remarkably dull “Shaq Vs.” reality series, still not clear if he stole the idea from former Phoenix Suns teammate Steve Nash or he really is on the up-and-up in making this work as a legit summer programming filler.

What better way to start the show for the 5-foot-7, 148-pound Reyes to step up to the line against possibly the worst free-throw shooter in league history, and take him down like a wet cleaning rag.

Yet, it seems for naught.

TVWeek.com reports that the new series, starting Tuesday, Aug. 3, will have O’Neal going up against retired NBA star Barkley (in flagging down a hooker?), Tyson Gay (really, in a sprint?), Sugar Shane Mosley (we saw what Shaq didn’t do against Oscar de la Hoya), Joey Chestnut (some sort of eating contest) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (probably driving go-carts). Shaq is also expanding it since he’s run out of ideas, and also wants to hang out with singer Justin Bieber, compete in a cook-off with food nut Rachel Ray, try to trick magicians Penn & Teller and then go all alphabet on Spelling Bee champ Kavya Shivashankar.

O’Neal showed up at last month’s Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. and told the 14-year-old Shivashankar: “Keep in mind, I have a bachelor’s and master’s, and I’m ready to go.”

That’s what he told Michael Phelps, Lisa Leslie, Misty May Treanor, Kerry Walsh, Albert Pujols and Ben Rothlesburger last year.

“I’m out to prove that I can compete beyond athletics,” O’Neal says in a statement. “I’ve spent all year sharpening my skills and I want to win. There’s no challenge bigger than me.”

Except, maybe this guy we know in West Hollywood …

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A stamp of approval: Negro Leagues honored by USPS, with Kadir Nelson’s artwork

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Too bad it’s not one of those “Forever” stamps that the U.S. Postal Service suggests we buy to buffer the regular rate increases for a first-class stamp.

Instead, a 44-cent stamp that honors those associated with the old Negro Leagues will go on sale Thursday, dedicated in ceremonies at the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

In the two-pannel first stamp issued, one shows a close play at home plate, while the other commemorates Andrew “Rube” Foster, founder of the leagues that operated from 1920 to 1960.

The stamps are designed by the brilliant San Diego-based artist Kadir Nelson (linked here), whom we featured in a story when his book, “We Are The Ship” came out in 2008 (linked here).

A story about how Nelson came to do these special stamps is on the USA Philatelic website (linked here), including a first draft of how the stamp could appear.

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The official U.S. Postal Service site offers a special edition “Ship” book (linked here) that comes with a sheet of stamps as well.

The USPS site also has a commemorative 30-by-11 1/4 inch special print of the first two stamps (linked here), a digital color keepsake (linked here), a ceremony program (linked here), a baseball cap with the stamp on it (linked here), a cultural diary (linked here), a commemorative folio (linked here) and special framed artwork (linked here).

There’s no more information about whether the collection will include stamps honoring other legends, such as Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Jackie Robinson.

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