Who’s on First? A Weekly Sports Column

Kenseth wins a wacky 500

Monday night’s Daytona 500 was arguably one of the craziest races NASCAR has seen in quite some time. First, due to one of Florida’s famous sweeping rain storms, “the Great American Race” was put off from Sunday to Monday, marking the first time in the race’s history that it had to be postponed. When the drivers finally got to racing, the sprint featured over 20 crashes (there were only 43 drivers) and a massive fireball that looked like something out of a bad action movie. The fireball and resulting mess, caused by Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a cleaning truck carrying over 200 gallons of jet fuel, delayed the race by another two hours. When the checkered flag finally came out at around 1 a.m., it was Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth who took the crown.

It was the second Daytona 500 win for Kenseth, who also won back in 2009. However, the most memorable image of the event wasn’t Kenseth hoisting the trophy; rather it was the Montoya-created fireball and subsequent clean-up, which saw track workers laying out sand and using Tide laundry detergent to get the track back to racing condition. Yes, Tide. Other bizarre happenings from the race included drivers getting out of the cars and walking around during the delay, using the “facilities”, and even Tweeting pictures of the fire and clean-up from their cars. Brad Keselowski, the guilty Twitter party, saw his follower count increase by over 100,000 in the hours after the race, and won’t be disciplined for his in-race Tweeting (he wasn’t driving at the time, obviously). All of the Hollywood drama ended up being a ratings boon for Fox, as 36.5 million viewers tuned into the race.

Braun wins appeal

Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, who won the National League MVP award last year only to then be suspended for 50 games following a failed drug test, had his suspension overturned by an independent arbitrator last week, allowing him to be in Milwaukee’s line-up on Opening Day. Braun’s appeal marked the first time an MLB player has been successful in getting a performance-enhancing drug-related ban overturned. Major League Baseball management “vehemently disagrees” with arbitrator Shyam Das’ decision, and it seems like some of Braun’s fellow players don’t like the decision either.

A key part of Braun’s exoneration was his questioning over the handling of his guilty urine sample, as allegedly the sample wasn’t sent to the testing lab for 44 hours. However, an expert who formerly worked for the World Anti-Doping Agency says such a delay wouldn’t have affected the sample, leading some to propose conspiracy theories as to why Braun’s ban was lifted. Braun, 28, took shots at the collector of the sample, Dino Laurenzi Jr., going to far as to intimate that Laurenzi Jr. himself may have tampered with it. Laurenzi Jr. fired back at Braun on Wednesday, explaining in a statement the reason for the delay in shipping the samples (he collected them on a Saturday and FedEx wouldn’t ship them until Monday) and maintaining that he followed MLB drug test protocol to the letter. Other anti-doping figures from around the country are chiming in as well, as one member of the National Center for Drug-Free Sport called the ruling a “miscarriage.” Braun’s Brewers open the 2012 season on April 6 when they host the St. Louis Cardinals.

Navy TIGER?

Despite his recent marital troubles, Tiger Woods is undeniably one of the best, if not the best, golfers in the history of the sport. So what would tempt him to give it all up, all of the money, fame, and sponsorships, right in the prime of his career? If his former swing coach Hank Haney is to be believed, the call of duty. Haney, who quit as Woods’ swing coach in 2010 after six years of service, is writing a book called The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods (Crown Archetype, 2012). Woods’ people already aren’t happy with the book, and on Wednesday an excerpt dropped a pretty big bombshell: Haney alleges that Woods was considering quitting golf in the mid-2000s to try to become a Navy SEAL.

In the excerpt, released by Golf Digest magazine, Haney maintains that Woods was “seriously considering becoming a Navy SEAL,” and that he was “basically ready to leave it all behind for a military life.” Haney claimed that Woods trained with the SEALs in North Carolina in 2004, but the Navy says Woods’ visits were more of a walk-and-talk than a training exercise. Woods’ distaste for the book was apparent on Wednesday, when he grew irritated with a reporter’s repeated questions about the publication. Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, told the Associated Press that the book was “ridiculous” and that Haney was using “armchair psychology” to analyze his client. Steinberg went on to say that Haney’s book “violates the trust between a coach and player and someone also once considered a friend.” True or false, Woods’ interest in the military would make a degree of sense: his father, Earl, was a former Green Beret who served in the Vietnam War as a Special Forces interrogator.

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