It's an all-blog Thursday edition of the morning links! Everybody mamba!
That was some ball game last night, Cuba beating Puerto Rico 4-3 to reach the semifinals (Korea's into the final four, too, with a 2-1 win over Japan, meaning the U.S. still has a pulse and can complete the field today against Mexico). The seventh inning had it all, including pelting rain, the tying run thrown out at the plate -- and Cuba pitcher Romero looking like Ralph Kramdenero as he stood on the dugout, his uniform top half undone, then coming out to protest a call after the Cuban manager was tossed for arguing (and his interpreter, I presume -- the poor woman's translations were a bit too good, I guess). It took me a while, but I'm slowly becoming a believer in this WBC thing, which Dave Zirin hopes is the future of the game here: "If the WBC serves as an autopsy on America's national pastime, it also shows how the sport is being reborn beyond (the U.S.'s) borders."
Related: In honour of Dontrelle Willis, There's Your Karma, Ripe as Peaches has a post on charging the mound, with ESPN's Top 10 beanball brawls embedded. (George Bell inclusion: Bell's swing and a miss; Jorge Bell omission: Where's the karate kick and a miss on Bruce Kison?)
Raptors lose to the Pistons, but they did "play hard", as Rick Carlisle of the Pacers was applauding them for the other day (and as Tas on the Basketball Jones podcast was echoing in their latest). I have a question: since when did "playing hard" become anything other than a default setting, or an assessment that anyone outside of the coaches' fraternity should take seriously? These guys make a lot of money. "Playing hard" is the minimum they can do. "Playing smart" or "Playing disciplined" or "Playing prepared" or "Playing together" are different things entirely. Can't get on 'em too much for this, though, against a Detroit team that is best in the east. I mean, they "Play defence" while the Raptors "Just pretend".
It's like a really, really bad sequel going down in Ottawa, or as Mike Nixon puts it at OttawaFootball.com: "The league should revoke the franchise immediately and decide either to carry it for one year while searching for new owners or fold it now. Ottawa fans do not deserve this treatment."
Down in New York, the worst nickname in sports is taking on one of basketball's most passive-aggressive (and decorated) martinets. It's "Starbury" against Larry Brown. Everybody mamba! (Or at least, keep a straight face.)
Manute's Webb, with a great post on playing an NCAA pool in Canada, where March Madness is curling, follows it up with some Big Dance thoughts for today's opening -- okay, it's the picture of Scarlett Johansson that got me.
And although no one quite knows how, the USA have moved up to fifth in the FIFA rankings.