Today in sports: Tony La Russa exits the castle, why college football's "game of the century" is bound to disappoint, and Iran suspends two soccer players indefinitely for an "immoral" post-goal celebration.
- St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa announced his retirement Monday, just three days after his team defeated the Texas Rangers in one of the most exciting World Series matchups in recent memory. La Russa, 67, told reporters gathered at Busch Stadium in St. Louis that it "feels like it's time to end it" after 33 seasons as a major league manager. If he really is done managing, he'll leave with 2,728 wins, the third-most in baseball history. La Russa did manage to leave the door open to a possible return, saying upfront he had no specific plans for retirement, and semi-jokingly suggested he was interested in opening a bookstore. The Chicago Tribune is already floating the idea he could join the White Sox as "a special advisor" to owner Jerry Reinsdorf. (La Russa managed the White Sox from 1979 to 1986 before being fired by Reinsdorf.) On Twitter, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that La Russa associates believe there's "no chance" he'll ever return to managing, but that he would be interested in "a meaningful role in baseball" going forward. That suggests a job in the league office might be a possibility. It's seems a safe bet that La Russa will discuss the future in more detail when he appears on the Late Show with David Letterman tonight. [AP]
- NBA owners and players are still inching towards a labor deal that could save the majority of the season, but the Players Association is once again being dogged by reports that president Derek Fisher and executive director Billy Hunter don't trust each other. According to Fox Sports, Fisher has been "co-opted" by commissioner David Stern and promised he could get the union to agree to a 50-50 split on basketball revenues, even though the union has been adamant that they won't accept anything lower than a 52-48 split in their favor. Whether Fisher has promised to deliver the union at 50-50 or not, things were reportedly tense enough last week that Hunter "and at least one member of the union’s executive committee" confronted "Fisher on Friday morning and make him reassess his 50-50 push." Hunter, for his part, denied in an interview with Sports Business Journal today that any such incident took place. [Fox Sports]
- Saturday's matchup between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama is already being billed as college football's "game of the century." As The Wall Street Journal explains, it will be impossible for the Tigers and Crimson Tide to play a game that lives up to the hype. "The passage of time and the proliferation of hype-happy outlets are precisely why LSU-Alabama isn't the game of the century – and why there never will be another one," writes Rachel Bachman. That wasn't the case in 1971 when No. 1 Nebraska defeated No. 2 Oklahoma on national television on Thanksgiving Day. ABC was the only network that broadcast games which helps explains why 55 million viewers tuned in. In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled "the NCAA's limits on televised games violated antitrust laws freed conferences to cut their own TV deals," just as cable coverage was starting to boom. When No. 1 Miami played No. 2 Penn State on national television in 1987, the audience was down to 22 million viewers. [The Wall Street Journal]
- Iranian state television announced that two players from the pro soccer club Persepolis F.C. have been suspended for an "immoral celebration" during the club's 3-2 victory over Damash Gilan over the weekend. According to the AP's account, Persepolis defender Mohammed Nosrati "squeezed the backside of teammate Sheis Rezaei" after scoring a goal that tied Saturday game against Damash Gilan at 2-2. When Persepolis scored to go ahead 3-2, Rezael "seems to have also squeezed an unidentified teammate," based on an analysis YouTube footage of the alleged rear-slapping. The ban prevents the players from entering any soccer stadiums "indefinitely." [AP]