The Sports pages

The Party’s Over in Boston

The Denver Post’s Mike Burrows has an invaluable article about the growing number of ballplayers racking up mysterious off-the-field injuries. Last week, Broncos QB Brian Griese was knocked unconscious while sprinting down teammate Terrell Davis’ driveway during a party—no explanation as to why or from whom Griese was running. In March, San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent claimed he damaged his wrist while washing his car. But witnesses spotted someone who looked like Kent popping high-speed wheelies on a motorcycle and wiping out. Shaq needed stitches last week to close a wound suffered in a “household accident.”

It used to be even weirder. Wade Boggs once wrenched his back while wrestling on a pair of cowboy boots. Nolan Ryan was bitten by a coyote. Cal Ripken Jr. broke his nose while posing for an All-Star Team photo. Muggsy Bogues had to sit out the second half of an NBA game because he inadvertently inhaled muscle ointment at halftime. The champ: Lionel “L-Train” Simmons, formerly of the Sacramento Kings, missed two games with wrist tendonitis developed from overexposure to a Nintendo Game Boy.

There is crying in baseball, at least in Boston: Just when things seemed to be looking up for the Boston Red Sox, Manny Ramirez breaks his finger while sliding headfirst into home. Ramirez, who was leading the American League with a .372 batting average, is out four to six weeks. The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy writes, “It was all too good, wasn’t it? The Red Sox had won nine in a row, owned a 16-2 road mark, boasted the best record in baseball, and held a five-game lead (seven in the loss column) over the hated Yanks. … You’d think Manny had challenged Babe Ruth to arm wrestle or something.”

In other Hub news, the Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons to take a 3-1 lead in the most wretched NBA playoff series in recent memory. The teams shot a combined 51 for 147 in Game 3, just under 35 percent. The Celts won Game 3 by a score of 66-64, which was two points fewer than the combined halftime score of Game 3 of the Mavericks-Kings series. The Boston Herald’s Michael Gee worries: “The only danger the Celtics face in this series is that whatever the Pistons have might be catching.”

Empty Seats Watch, Cont’d: The New York Times’ Murray Chass diagnoses the problem with new baseball stadiums: “[I]f you build it, they will come, but only for a while.” Teams expecting new ballparks to raise revenue so they can compete with the Yankees have found the opposite to be true. As soon as fans realize they’re watching the same bad team in newer, more expensive seats, they stay away. “Of the 13 parks that opened in the last 13 years, attendance has declined at 11 of them. Only at Safeco Field in Seattle and Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco, where the home teams are successful on the field, are they enjoying continued success at the box office.”

Prime example: The Milwaukee Brewers used a sales-tax increase to fund construction of Miller Park, which opened to record crowds last season. This year, with the Brewers sporting the worst record in the National League, fans have stayed away in droves. As the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer reports, the Brewers average per-game attendance has dropped from 34,704 to 22,332 this season, a plunge of 36 percent.

The only way to pick a national champion worse than the BCS: Mississippi State football coach Jackie Sherrill proposed a new national championship playoff scheme to Arizona’s East Valley Tribune: a four-way dance between the champions of the SEC, Big Ten, Pac 10, and ACC. Such a system would lock out Miami, last year’s national champion, and Nebraska, last year’s runner-up. Not to mention Oklahoma, the national champion two years ago. But hey, Mississippi State would be eligible.

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