Also in this week’s Oct. 24 issue: Dan Wheldon in memoriam, Plaxico Burress sounds off on the NFL’s illegal hits, Jaromir Jagr’s return from Siberian exile and the soon-to-be winningest QB in college football history

You’ve seen the two covers for this week’s issue and our World Series prediction as well as details from Gary Smith’s interview with Jerry West, who discussed in great detail the depression that plagued him throughout his Hall of Fame career and most of his life. Here is what else readers will find in this week’s Oct. 24 issue, on newsstands now.

DAN WHELDON: 1978–2011 – LARS ANDERSON (@LarsAndersonSI)

Two-time Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon’s future seemed bright on Sunday morning, when the 33-year-old signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in 2012. Hours later, just 11 laps into the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon was dead, killed in a 15-car wreck. Series champion Dario Franchitti said afterward, “One minute you’re joking around at driver intros—the next, Dan’s gone. I’m struggling to get it together.” When the day ended with a low-speed, five-lap tribute to Wheldon, IndyCar’s season came to an end—and the sport had lost one of its most popular, most engaging drivers (page 56).

On the Tablets: A slideshow of highlights from Dan Wheldon’s career on the IndyCar circuit.

SCORECARD: LEARNING TO PLAY NICE – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)

From a numbers standpoint, the response to the NFL’s Black Sunday—Oct. 17, 2010, when three players were concussed on violent hits—has been effective. The number of fines for illegal hits is down, and no suspensions have been handed out. But the NFL has not completely gotten through to players. To wit (page 15):

  • Jets receiver Plaxico Burress: “If you have a chance to knock me out or break my leg, man, knock me out. That’s missing a game or two, not the whole season. As receivers, we know what we signed up for.”
  • Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been fined $95,000 for illegal hits since the start of last season: “They teach you growing up that you’ve got to be violent and put the fear of God in people, but when you get to the league that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life, they tell you to change your game 100 percent or get money taken from you. I try lowering my target zone, but if you have a receiver who’s 5′ 8″, it’s still going to be a helmet-to-helmet collision. How do you avoid that when you’re running full speed?”
  • Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, recalling a clear shot he had on Matt Ryan in Week 5: “I didn’t quite know how to hit him. I didn’t want to hit him too high, when it should be natural to just go hit him. I ended up getting the sack, but I didn’t hit him as hard as I wanted to.”

Read the rest of this entry »


In the 5.30.11 Edition of SI: NBA Finals, Fred Wilpon, Tiki Barber, NHL Playoffs and Inside the Indy 500

On the Cover: The NBA Conference Finalists Get Down and Dirty

What Loyalty to Bernie Madoff is Costing Fred Wilpon and the Mets

Time for Tiki Barber to Get Back at His Critics

Puck Possession Is the Key to Winning the Stanley Cup

Inside the Evolution of the Indy 500 After 100 Years

The May 30, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated—on newsstands now—features Miami’s LeBron James and Chicago’s Joakim Noah pursuing a loose ball in the Eastern Conference Finals on the cover. It is the 13th cover appearance for James, which ties him for 14th all time with New York Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. 

FRED WILPON PAYS THE PRICE – TOM VERDUCCI (@TOMVERDUCCI)

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon shares detailed and personal accounts of the Bernard Madoff scandal and Irving Picard lawsuit with senior writer Tom Verducci. Wilpon acknowledges the $1 billion lawsuit could cost him ownership of the Mets, saying (page 64): “I think the club became in jeopardy when he filed [for] this billion dollars. That’s when I decided to sell part of the club and maintain control in our operations and share the partnership with somebody.”

Wilpon says the Mets “are bleeding cash” and acknowledges that they stand to lose as much as $70 million this year.

In the summer of 2002, after Wilpon became the sole owner of the Mets, he reached out to four or five “extremely close friends” to offer them a piece of the team. One of those men was Bernie Madoff who turned down the offer. Looking back on it, Wilpon recalls: “Bernie didn’t want to be in the public eye, which I can now understand more.”

To read the full online version of Fred Wilpon Pays the Price, click here.

On the Tablets: A Sports Illustrated audio podcast interview with Tom Verducci.

TIKI BARBER GETS REAL – L. JON WERTHEIM (@jon_wertheim)

Former Pro Bowl running back Tiki Barber seemed destined for success after football, but a failed television career and a scandal shattered his post football ambitions.  Now 36, he attempts an NFL comeback and to repair his bruised image (page 46).

Former teammate Michael Strahan says: “When people are like, ‘What’s up with Tiki?’ I don’t even know where to begin. You can be critical, even of your old team, but people felt Tiki was malicious. You take that, and then the team you criticized wins the Super Bowl? That can be hard to recover from.  Especially in New York.”

Says Roman Oben, a Giants tackle from 1996 to ’99 (page 46): “A lot of players want to be taken seriously as more than a football player. But we’d beat the Cowboys and fly home. Guys are yelling, playing cards and watching movies. Tiki’s sitting there, legs crossed, reading Wuthering Heights or whatever. Come on. Some guys let you know how bad they had it growing up. Tiki wanted you to know the opposite: Hey, I’m not from the hood.”

To read the full online version of Tiki Barber Gets Real, click here.

On the Tablets: Exclusive video of Barber’s workouts as he attempts an NFL comeback.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: BULLYING THE BULLS – IAN THOMSEN (@SI_IanThomsen)

For all the attention paid to James and the other two members of Miami’s Big Three, it was the physical play of Udonis Haslem that set the Heat back on track against Chicago after he missed all but 13 games this season.  Says Dwyane Wade (page 36): “He’s the heartbeat of our team. Our team is that much better with U-D being back.”

To read the full online version of Bullying the Bulls, click here.

On the Tablets: Video highlights from the Bulls-Heat series.

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: A BEAUTIFUL RIVALRY – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

Oklahoma City and Dallas are perfect foils. The Thunder is a young team and new to the NBA elite while the experienced Mavericks have yet to fulfill their championship hopes. These teams are not only in the middle of a down-and-dirty playoff series but also at the beginning of what promises to be an interstate rivalry for years to come. Says Kevin Durant, a former Texas Longhorn (page 40): “Anytime you have an Oklahoma team against a Texas team you’re going to have that extra little bit of intensity from the fans. That’s just the way it is down here.”

To read the full online version of The Beginning of a Beautiful Rivalry, click here.

On the Tablets: Video highlights from the Western Conference finals and hot spots of the five best rivalries in NBA history.

NHL PLAYOFFS: KEEP BOTH EYES ON THE PUCK – BRIAN CAZENEUVE

Nobody in the NHL can agree on just how to quantify puck possession. But everybody knows that hockey’s most elusive statistic is essential to winning the Stanley Cup.  Says Tampa Bay Lightning G.M. Steve Yzerman (page 60): “Without the red line and with relaxed rules on icing, the puck can go from behind your net into the other team’s end in an instant, so there’s not much playing in the neutral zone anymore. The more you have the puck, the more you can attack and generate ­offense. That’s the way I believe you defend a lead now: Attack and make the other team defend.”

To read the full online version of Keep Both Eyes on the Puck, click here.

On the Tablets: A closer look at the leading contenders from each of the four remaining teams to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy: Martin St. Louis (Lightning), Joe Thornton (Sharks), Tim Thomas (Bruins) and Ryan Kesler (Canucks).

100 YEARS OF THE INDY 500 – CHARLES LEERHSEN

This year’s Indianapolis 500 marks 100 years since the inaugural race. The Indy 500 has evolved into a far safer and more streamlined event over the years, but can it regain its former roar? Sports Illustrated takes a closer look at some of the memorable moments that have been made on the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as how the cars at the hallowed Brickyard have evolved since Ray Harroun won the 1911 race in a Marmon Wasp (page 52).

To see Danica Patrick answer a question from a Sports Illustrated Facebook fan, click here. To read the full online version of 100 Years of the Indy 500, click here.

On the Tablets: Nine photos of past action from the Indy 500.

THE PREAKNESS: LEADING FROM THE FRONT – TIM LAYDEN (@SITimLayden)

By pushing the pace from the start, Shackleford never allowed Animal Kingdom to relax as he did in the Kentucky Derby. In holding off the 2–1 favorite by a half length on the backstretch, Shackleford defied the racetrack wisdom that a fast pace benefits fast-finishing horses (like Animal Kingdom) by wearing out the leaders.  Says Shackleford’s trainer, Dale Romans (page 44): “When the pace is slow, you keep closers in the race.”

To read the full online version of Leading From the Front, click here.

On the Tablets: A slideshow of Sports Illustrated’s best photos from the Preakness.

POINT AFTER: END OF THE STORY – JOE POSNANSKI (@JPosnanski)

During an interview on Thursday with senior writer Joe Posnanki, Dick Ebersol summed up his career thusly: “The most important thing to me was to tell stories.” Ebersol saw past the excess hype, one-liners and camera angles of today’s sports media landscape and focused on captivating narratives. With Ebersol’s departure from NBC, fans may have seen the last giant of network television sports. Speaking with Posnanski shortly after Ebersol’s resignation, Al Michaels said (page 74): “I think Dick saw his role as 75 percent creative and 25 percent business. And I think things were changing so that [the ratio] was going to be the other way around…. Dick took chances. I don’t know who will take those chances now.”

To read the full online version of End of the Story, click here.

SCORECARD: TOO MUCH INFORMATION? – Jack McCallum

This week marks the national release of These Guys Have All the Fun, an inside look at the lives of the talent as ESPN since the network’s inception in 1979. As ESPN continues to grow, its audience has become more invested with its anchors, which raises the question: How fair is to scrutinize the private lives of people delivering the news? (page 12)

To read the full online version of Too Much Information?, click here.

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 23)

• Anna McClung (Gate City, Va.) – Soccer                                            

• Kyle Winter (San Antonio) – Track and Field                                     

• Adrienne Monka (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) – Softball                                

• Nyko Bodnar (Long Beach, Calif.) – Diving

• Grace Gaeng (Bel Air, Md.) – Lacrosse

• Paul Karmas (Queens, N.Y.) – Baseball

Follow Faces in the Crowd on Twitter @SI_Faces.

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS (page 24)

  • Boxing: Golden Oldie – At the record age of 46, a revived (and aggressive!) Bernard Hopkins took the light heavyweight title. (Chris Mannix, @ChrisMannixSI)
  • Golf: Grandfathered In – After a crushing playoff loss at the Players, David Toms rebounded with an emotional win in honor of his late grandfather at the Colonial. (Gary Van Sickle, @GaryVanSickle)
  • Soccer: The Best Ever? – Barcelona goes for the accolade of “best club ever” in Saturday’s Champions League final. Here’s how Manchester United can stop them. (Jen Chang, @JenChang88)
  • Baseball: Bigs Break – They’re minor leaguers now, but these five players will be major contributors soon. (Joe Sheehan, @joe_sheehan)

THIS WEEK ON THE TABLETS

  • SI Digital Bonus: Game 6 – Five months after Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Peter Gammons analyzed the might-have-beens and should-have-dones with the players and managers of the Mets and the Red Sox.


In This Week’s SI: Tide Lift Tuscaloosa, The Bulls Defense, Canucks’ Roberto Lungo, Novak Djokovic

Terror, Tragedy and Hope in Tuscaloosa 

With Apologies to Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ MVP Is Their Team Defense 

Roberto Luongo Scares the Puck out of Fans in Vancouver 

Novak Djokovic: The Face of Serbia’s Rebirth 

The Pacific Northwest: North America’s Soccer Hotbed

 The cover story of this week’s May 23, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated—on newsstands now—documents both the aftermath of the deadly tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 27 and how the Crimson Tide athletic community is helping in the relief effort.

When the most powerful tornado in the history of Alabama ripped through “T-Town” with winds of up to 190 mph, it caused damage that will take years to recover from. Senior writer Lars Anderson (@LarsAndersonSI), who lives in Birmingham and taught a sportswriting class at the University of Alabama this spring, spoke with several students and Tuscaloosa residents, each of whom has their own story from that tragic day. The outpouring of support from the Alabama athletic community has included but has not been limited to:

  • More than $1 million in donations to the relief effort from the school’s athletic department.
  • Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Javier Arenas, a member of the Crimson Tide’s 2009 national championship team, bought $1,600 worth of supplies and Tweeted that he would give it away outside of a mall.
  • 15 members of Alabama’s baseball team helped a mother of one of the six students killed search the wreckage for a white dress that the mother wanted to bury her daughter in.

Says football coach Nick Saban: “We can create a psychological escape for the people of this town. They have a great passion for sports, and we’ll be there for them.”

Sports Illustrated is helping with the recovery effort with an Alabama relief auction to benefit the American Red Cross. Users can bid on items such as a dinner anywhere in the continental U.S. with Peter King, two tickets to the 2011 Sportsman of the Year Celebration in New York later this year, classic Crimson Tide cover reprints and custom print photographs of Joe Namath and Bear Bryant signed by legendary photographer Neil Leifer. To bid on an item, click here. Items will be open for bidding between now and 2-3 pm EST on May 25.

To read the full online version of Terror, Tragedy and Hope in Tuscaloosa, click here.

On the Tablets: A podcast interview with Lars Anderson as well as video footage of the tornado’s aftermath and interviews with those affected in the Crimson Tide community.

TOM THIBODEAU: DEFENSE, CHICAGO STYLE – LEE JENKINS (@SI_LeeJenkins)

The Chicago Bulls are one step from their first NBA Finals since the Michael Jordan era, thanks not only to MVP Derrick Rose but also to Tom Thibodeau’s corralling team defense, which led the league in defensive efficiency, rebounding differential, opponents’ field goal percentage and opponents’ three-point percentage. Recalls former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, for whom Thibodeau was an assistant coach with the Knicks in the late 1990s and early 2000s (page 42): “One day I asked him about individual defense and he started breaking down the stance on the ball, where your hand position should be, how far you should retreat after a jab step. He gave me a doctoral paper on it. He made me feel bad about my own level of knowledge.”

The preparation for Thibodeau’s first season in Chicago started with a procession of exhausting individual workouts during the summer. Recalls Joakim Noah: “I’d hide from him, and he’d still find me. I’d tell him ‘Thibs, I can’t do it again, I’m tired, it’s summertime, it’s Friday, let’s take it easy, let’s chill.’ He didn’t go for that.”

To read the full online version of Defense, Chicago Style, click here.

On the Tablets: Touch on any one of the five Bulls players on the floor to see what their defensive responsibilities are, plus up-to-the-minute video of the latest action from the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.

NHL PLAYOFFS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND ROBERTO LUONGO – BRIAN CAZENEUVE

His team is the best in hockey, and most of the time so is Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. But his penchant for disastrous mistakes seems to always weigh on fans in Vancouver, even when his teammates on the Canucks’ powerhouse roster rise to his defense. Says winger Alex Burrows (page 46): “What the hell else does he have to do? I know: win a Stanley Cup. When we win people think the puck stops itself. No, it’s Roberto. I think he’s the best goalie in the world.”

To read the full online version of The Good, The Bad and Robert Luongo, click here.

On the Tablets: Three examples each of “Good Luongo” and “Bad Luongo” as well as a slideshow of the latest from the Eastern Conference Finals between the Lightning and Bruins.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: STARING DOWN HISTORY – S.L. PRICE

With the longest men’s winning streak of the Open era in his sights, Novak Djokovic is doing more than chasing history. He’s also serving as the symbol of Serbia’s rebirth. Says Vladimir Petrovic, Serbia’s ambassador to the U.S. (page 54): “Novak Djokovic is the single biggest positive p.r. this country’s ever had. He’s a positive face of the new democratic Serbia.”

Djokovic’s pride in his homeland—as well as the steeliness that has guided him on his current winning streak—was shaped during the NATO bombings of 1999. Rather than holing up in their apartment, the Djokovics went to the Partizan Tennis Club in Belgrade, where Novak trained, and spent entire days hitting tennis balls. Recalls Novak’s mother, Dijana: “There was no way we are sitting at home and crying. So we are on the tennis court from 10 in the morning to 6, 7, 8 p.m. Also our two other kids [Marko and Djordje] are practicing during the bombing. You are practicing and listening to sirens, but it was the only way. We were trying to find some way to get out.”

To read the full online version of Staring Down History, click here.

On the Tablets: Video of Djokovic imitating the serves and/or tics of other players on Tour.

SOCCER: A PACIFIC PASSION PLAY – GRANT WAHL (@GrantWahl)

The best rivalries in North American soccer are in the Pacific Northwest between the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. It’s a competition that dates back to the North American Soccer League—more than two decades before Major League Soccer was established. All three teams competed then with the same franchise names, leaving a mark on the former and current fan bases. Now the region has quickly transformed into an MLS hotbed, highlighted by record attendance and intense matches. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid says (page 50): “Any other rivalry in this league has sort of been a created rivalry. This rivalry has history. It’s been there the last 30-plus years, and that makes it the best rivalry in the league.”

To read the full online version of a Pacific Passion Play, click here.

On the Tablets: The weekly Sports Illustrated soccer podcast with Wahl as well as SI.com’s Jen Chang and Jonathan Wilson. Plus, a visual history of professional soccer in the Pacific Northwest.

SI PLAYERS MLB POLL

Who is the nicest player in baseball? (page 13)

Jim Thome, Twins DH….21%                 Johnny Damon, Rays DH….5%

Raúl Ibañez, Phillies OF….7%                Joe Mauer, Twins C….4%

Mike Sweeney, Retired 1B….5%

Facebook Fan Picks

Thome….29%

Derek Jeter, Yankees SS….18%

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox 2B….11%

FAST FACTS: Yankees OF Curtis Granderson and SS Derek Jeter also received 4% of the players’ vote…. Among the top 25 vote-getters, only one pitcher, Oakland’s Craig Breslow (1%) was named, while nine first basemen were cited…. Pedroia was No. 3 in fan voting but received only two player votes (1%).

POINT AFTER: TOUGH LOVE FROM DR. PHIL – PHIL TAYLOR (@SI_PhilTaylor)

Senior writer Phil Taylor has been baffled by how the NBA playoffs have turned into one big therapy session. He’s been captivated by the games yet at the same time annoyed by hearing so many players and teams sort out their emotional baggage. So Taylor does his best to channel the real Dr. Phil in humorous faux conversations with four postseason participants, all of whom with their own set of issues: the Celtics’ Glen Davis, whose own coach said he couldn’t “find” him during the playoffs; the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum, who has a firsthand account of Los Angeles’s trust issues; a tearful Brandon Roy of the Trail Blazers; and the Heat’s Chris Bosh, weighing in on his role as the neglected member of Miami’s Big Three (page 64).

To read the full online version of Tough Love from Dr. Phil, click here.

Scorecard Essay: Everybody Loves Sportscasters – Steve Rushin (@SteveRushin)

This fall America will get three new TV shows based on the life of ESPN anchors. There have been a number of sitcoms about sportswriters—including The Odd Couple and Everybody Loves Raymond—but the new age of media lends itself well to an update of that tried and true formula. Steve Rushin previews the fall lineup while also looking back at the old standbys (page 12).

To read the full online version of Everybody Loves Sportscasters, click here.

THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (page 20)

• Myles Andrews (Long Beach, Calif.) – Track and Field           • Conlin McCabe (Brockville, Ont.) – Rowing

• Danielle Etrasco (Massapequa, N.Y.) – Lacrosse                    • Cody McMillion (Hopkins, S.C.) and Ariana Mato

• J.T. Poston (Hickory, N.C.) – Golf                                             (Davie, Fla.) – Equestrian

• Megan Smith (Olathe, Kans.) – Track and Field

Follow Faces in the Crowd on Twitter @SI_Faces.

INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS (page 28)

  • Baseball: Hot in Cleveland – At the season’s quarter pole on thing is clear: The Indians are for real.
    • On the Tablets: Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) weighs in on the Jorge Posada situation.
  • Olympic Sports: Sweet 16 – The U.S. has found its next teen phenom in the pool, Missy Franklin, who’s poised to make a huge splash.
  • Golf: Painful Thought – Another injury-related setback heightened speculation that Tiger Woods’s best days are behind him.

THIS WEEK ON THE TABLETS

  • SI Digital Bonus: Worthy of Really High Fives – In this feature story from the June 18, 1984, issue, Curry Kirkpatrick recaps a French Open where Ivan Lendl won his first major and Martina Navratilova (sort of) captured the Grand Slam.
  • Scorecard: The Man in Full – Touch to read an excerpt from George Vecsey’s Stan Musial: An American Life and listen to an interview with Vecsey.
  • Scorecard: Video of a Home Run Derby between the late Harmon Killebrew and Mickey Mantle.
  • Scorecard: Off the Record – This week’s must-see moments in sports video.

-SI-


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