Today in sports: Peyton Hillis considered dumping the Cleveland Browns for The Company, U.S. soccer shows Italy who's boss after 78 years of futility, and the bidding war for the right to draft Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III could be wrapping up early.
Just a day after the story about Tiger Woods longing to join the Navy SEALs at the peak of his career comes news that Cleveland Browns running back Madden NFL '12 cover subject Peyton Hillis isn't sure he wants to keep playing football, and according to team sources, thought about joining the CIA at some point last season. ESPN's Adam Schefter notes rather dryly that it remains "unclear if [Hillis] actually pursued a career with the CIA." Probably not. Though he might have! You never know with the CIA, especially around draft time. [ESPN]
The United States men's soccer team defeated Italy 1-0 last night. That's the first time the Americans have won in the 78 years the two countries have been playing each other. Clint Dempsey's go-ahead goal was just the fifth time America scored against Italy in seven decades. Folks are pretty astounded, especially overseas, in countries where soccer is called football and people follow the game. The Guardian has already gone ahead and ranked the win fifth on a new rundown of "[The] USA's five greatest soccer results." (They limited it to men's soccer, obviously.) [The Guardian]
Former Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III wowed scouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis by running the 40-yard-dash in 4.41 seconds, being as tall as the Baylor media guide claimed, and just generally seeming like the second coming of Steve Young. Which is why it's strange to hear that the St. Louis Rams, who hold the second overall pick in next month's draft and don't need a quarterback, could trade the pick within the next two weeks. The benefit of having multiple teams bid against each other in order to move up is obvious, so why consummate a deal early when multiple teams -- including Washington, Miami, Cleveland, and Seattle -- have already engaged the Rams in trade talks? NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports the club has "a strong feeling on what it believes is fair value for the pick." If so, they know something the rest of the NFL does not, since the traditional "draft-pick value chart" teams have used since 1994 to determine whether they're getting fleeced in draft day trades no longer applies now that the league has installed a rookie wage scale. Nobody knows what fair trade value is under the new system: It's going to be determined by the market, and big trades like the one the Rams are in too much of a hurry to get done. [NFL.com]
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson -- who made that much-replayed front-flip touchdown catch against the Arizona Cardinals last season -- could spend 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to felony drug charges stemming from an incident in September when federal agents found 2.5 pounds of marijuana had been shipped to his house in northern Kentucky. Simpson was facing one to five years in prison if convicted. Along with the jail time, he received three years probation and will have to complete 200 hours of community service. He'll almost certainly be suspended by the NFL for several games next season, which is not a good thing when you're hitting the free agent market in less than a week. [AP]
Back in January, our own Rebecca Greenfield and Elspeth Reeve had a spirited debate about whether or not Yoga is total nonsense. They arrived at a split decision, which would undoubtedly displease the folks preparing for the National Yoga Asana Championship in New York this weekend. Because those people consider yoga a commercially viable sport. Says Rajashree Choudhury, the founder of USA Yoga: "Someday I want everybody to watch it on ESPN." That seems like a stretch, but Kevin Gold, who is competing in this weekend's event, argues there's precedent. "Is curling any more exciting?" he asks. Well, yes: There's the drama of seeing how close the stones get to the target. And there's strategy behind all that sweeping. We're told practitioners of competitive yoga -- hereby known as yogarats -- typically "practice four hours a day and six days a week in a Bikram studio, where the temperature steams at 105 degrees," but in the end, they're just doing yoga. It's a fine exercise, if you don't mind nerve damage, weird clothes, and sweating self-righteous people, but as a competitive sport, it's on-par with synchronised jumping-jacks. [The New York Times]
Grantland has assembled a thorough and very readable oral history of the bench-clearing, stand-entering brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in 2004, otherwise known as the Malice in the Palace. The backstory is compelling, and boils down to the Pacers getting unduly flustered by Detroit's hard fouls, which made a chippy divisional game even chippier. When Ron Artest famously sprawled out on the scorer's table and was pelted with a cup from the stands, nobody on the court quite seemed to have the angle viewers had at home, so they didn't realize how quickly the situation was escalating. Tim Donaghy -- the same Tim Donaghy who went to jail for betting on games he worked -- was on the court that night and says the officiating crew assumed "as long as [Ron Artest and Detroit center Ben Wallace] were away from each other, we didn't think it would escalate." When it did, Donaghy says they decided "to just step back and view what was going on, so that when we started the game back up, we'd have an idea of who needed to be ejected and what actions we were going to take," rather than try to quiet things down. [Grantland]