West of sunset


When I was a freshman at Duke, Alex Rodriguez showed up at a basketball game out of nowhere and sat a couple rows in front of me to watch Trajan Langdon, with whom he’d played Minor League ball. A-Rod had already had a couple of really good seasons for the Mariners, though nothing like the Bondsian numbers he’d put up a few years later. That day, he hung out with students, joked around with Dick Vitale and enjoyed the game like the rest of us.

Three years later, A-Rod signed a $250 million contract with the Rangers and steadily became warped by fame and money, destined to become an enormously talented and eccentric caricature of a superstar. Far gone were any vestiges of the kid who jumped up and down when Shane Battier took a charge.

I’ve long been fascinated by the change that takes place when someone reaches levels of fame and wealth that most people only dream about. Does Michael Jordan ever look at pictures of himself inexplicably brandishing an umbrella in his dorm room and become a bit overwhelmed by what he has become? Or is he simply too preoccupied with cursing his imaginary adversaries, getting drunk off expensive liquors, running a terrible basketball team and wearing hideous outfits?

Over the years, Kanye West has crossed over into that rarified air. It’s hard to imagine as recently as 2007, when he went head-to-head in record sales with a seemingly more popular 50 Cent and won, Kanye was actually something of an underdog. Last Friday night, during his solo show at Revel in Atlantic City, I marveled at the superstar Kanye West has become, at the expense of a decent chunk of his previous persona and humanity.

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At big-money Yankee Stadium, satisfaction hardly guaranteed

Opulence on full display

After being impressed with Yankee Stadium during the Cotto-Foreman fight last week, I wanted to see it for its designed purpose: a baseball game. So I made my way to the Bronx for my first Yankees game at the new Stadium in a World Series rematch against the Phillies on Wednesday.

Unsurprisingly, my opinion was much the same as it was for Citi Field, which I found to have none of the soul of Shea but 10 times the commerce, and therein lies the flaw in the “event” culture they’ve created:

You can sell the experience, but you can’t control the outcome of the game.

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Rearview mirror: The coolest, and un-coolest, athletes of the 2000’s

Top: Coolest.  Bottom: Least coolest. (Like I have to tell you) Note Reggie in bottom left holding hands with a referee

Another set of lists as part of our friends at Trumbull Island’s Year/Decade-ending Top 10 list hysteria. Here are the Top 10 coolest athletes of the decade, and the Top 10 least coolest athletes. I’m sure I’m missing some, but I think it’s a pretty good primer. I think you’ll see Nas is generally a good barometer here. Feel free to let me know some other guys I missed.

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One felled swoosh: Perceived perfection led Tiger to flawed existence

Tiger's new public stance

It appears that after all this time, what the world might have really wanted is for Tiger Woods to be flawed, because it brings him down to everyone else’s level.

When someone appears to be too perfect, it makes people uncomfortable. It forces them to face their own deficiencies. And for so long, Tiger was just too damned perfect.

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Meet the new king … How will success affect A-Rod now and forever?

 Top of the World
After the Yankees won the World Series on Wednesday night, Alex Rodriguez spent some time gleefully saying that he was now “just one of the guys.” That he had earned his pinstripes, so to speak.

This, to me, is wishful thinking on A-Rod’s part. His salary, his very public personal life, his… interesting… personality – none of these dictates someone who will simply blend in.

So if he’s not that, what exactly has he become?

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Hate ‘em or love ‘em, Yankees forever the straw that stirs the drink

Sweet vindication -- for what, I'm not sure Say what you will about how they build their team, how they outspend everyone else in the game, about their economic and big-market advantages.

But the Yankees are where it’s at in baseball. And it’s been that way forever.

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Kings of New York? Jay-Z the wrong choice for Yanks’ pregame anthem

Jay keeping it gangsta with his sweater and Kate HudsonIf you’ve been reading, you know SportsAngle is largely in tune with the hip-hop community. (As recently as this month, I shook hands with the great Ghostface Killah) So I watched with keen interest as the Yankees announced that Jay-Z – who has carved out more and more of a presence in sports lately as part-owner of the Nets and celebrity friend of LeBron James – would perform his new song, Empire State of Mind, at Game 1 of the World Series.

And I’m here to tell you the Yankees made a lousy pick.

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Putting it bluntly: Philly’s repeat talk not just smoke and mirrors

As evenly matched a Series as we've seen in quite some time

The Yankees are one of the most talented teams I’ve seen in a long time – as well they should be. They already had the best leadoff hitter, closer, and arguably the best hitter in baseball, and they spent a cool $425 mil to add the top two free-agent starters and the best free-agent position player on the market. That is what you call economy in motion.

What I’ve been surprised about is their ability to come together as a cohesive unit. Their chemistry appears better than I’ve seen from a Yankees team in years. I doubt Jeter truly likes personalities like Nick Swisher and A.J. Burnett, but I’m sure he’s learned to love the loosening-up affect they’ve had on the clubhouse, what with all the pies in the face and whatnot.

But they’re about to run into a Phillies team that is even more cohesive, that makes more sense, that has more of an identity. And that has just as much talent. Here are the factors I see affecting the World Series, which I believe will be a very close affair.

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