The Sports pages

Mike Tyson, Meet Sonny Liston

The Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Jersey Nets again to take a 3-0 series lead in the NBA Finals. “All this is right now for our team is a learning experience,” said Nets coach Byron Scott, disputing the notion that the Nets are actively trying to win basketball games. “That’s all it is. I thought we took a giant step tonight as far as competing against the best.”

For the Lakers, the Game 3 hero wasn’t Shaq or Kobe Bryant—it was Devean George. “Sometimes it seems as though whoever’s on the court for the Lakers comes through in the clutch,” the Los Angeles Times’ J.A. Adande writes. “Devean George’s contributions to this playoff run had been as minimal as June rainfall in L.A. But he played 11 minutes in the fourth quarter Sunday, scored all six of his points and snatched six of his eight rebounds—including a follow-up dunk off a missed jumper by Bryant.”

Mike Tyson, meet Sonny Liston: Lennox Lewis shredded Mike Tyson Saturday, KO-ing the ex-champ with an overhand right in the eighth. After the fight, Tyson trainer Ronni Shields said, “Mike gave it the best he could in that ring. And he gave me everything he had in that gym to prepare for the fight.”

The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon responds:“Therein lies the very, very serious bad news for Tyson. Presuming Shields knows what he’s talking about, Tyson trained as hard as he could, fought as well as he could, and got dismantled. … If that’s the best Tyson can do against a champion, and there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that’s the case, he’s done as a significant figure in boxing.”

Now begins the descent into Old Boxer Hell. “Believe it or not, it’s not over yet for Tyson, and that should be the worst news for anyone who still cares about his welfare,” USA Today’sJon Saraceno writes. “On some future evening, he again will play the role of aged, vanquished warrior simply because he really has no choice. … Tyson nearly has been reduced to the fighter he always admired, for better or worse. Nearing 36, he is Sonny Liston reincarnate, though certainly with a lot more courage.”

Why sportswriting sucks: Barbara Walder has a terrific catch-all piece in New York Newsday on the decline of sports journalism. How could it take years to produce the definitive exposé on steroid use in baseball? “That’s why, in part, sports reporters are often seen as second-raters—unserious journalists covering unserious events. It’s also in part why, in quality papers especially, sports sections are seen as mostly simple-minded stats and scores, a necessary but not status part of the paper. The news bosses, whatever their Walter Mitty fantasies of playing center field, generally see sports as beneath them, and leave sports sections to their own devices.”

Walder says the best sportswriting—Sports Illustrated’ssteroid scoop excluded—often comes from outsiders, who don’t need constant access to athletes and therefore don’t have to suck up.

Obligatory World Cup item: Writing from South Korea,’s Terry Baddoo says soccer players are masters at flopping to draw foul calls. “Every game I’ve watched so far has produced at least half a dozen overreactions that would be leading candidates for a Golden Raspberry, the annual awards for Hollywood’s worst movies and movie performances. Have these men no pride? Or is their threshold of pain so low that breathing on them causes them to fall down in a grimacing heap clutching whatever body part comes to hand first?”

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