Today in sports: The Heat are falling apart, SEC football plays rough, and a Saints takes a big shot at the Commish.
Former fireballing phenom Kerry Wood plans to retire tonight after making one last appearance for the Chicago Cubs. Wood exploded on the scene in 1998 when he threw a 1-hit, 20-strikeout game in just his fifth career start. (A game that many have argued is the single greatest pitching performance of all time.) However, his career became a steady progression of high pitch counts and brutal arm injuries that took entire seasons off his career, hampered his blazing fastball, and eventually relegated him to the bullpen. Wood hopes to get into tonight's game against the crosstown White Sox, accept a standing ovation from the Wrigley Field crowd, and then hang up his cleats. [Chicago Tribune]
After getting pasted by the Indiana Pacers last night, the Miami Heat canceled their practice and all media availability today. During last night's embarrassing 94-75 loss, Dwyane Wade — in the middle of suffering through one of the worst playoff performances of his career — engaged in a verbal altercation with his coach Erik Spolestra, leading some to wonder if the Heat are staring down another playoff implosion. There's still plenty of time to turn it around against the Pacers, but things will get real ugly on South Beach if LeBron and Co. (without Chris Bosh for the rest of the series) don't find a way to get a W in Game 4. [Washington Post]
The new college football playoff setup hasn't even been worked out yet, but the SEC and Big 12 aren't waiting around to see if they get hurt by it. The two conferences have agreed to pair their football champions in a New Year's Day bowl game — a la the Pac-10/Big Ten partnership with the Rose Bowl — provided neither one of their teams is in the four-team playoff. Considering that the SEC has won six straight BCS title games (and supplied both participants last year) it's hard to imagine any scenario where their conference champion isn't in a NCAA playoff. This serves mostly as a shot across the bow of the Big Ten, which could muck up the playoff negotiations over its' slavish devotion to their Rose Bowl alliance. [AP/Yahoo]
Nike has released this action-packed soccer ad, in advance of this weekend's Champions League final (and this summer's European Championships.) [YouTube]
Major League Baseball has taken the unusual step of suspending an umpire for "repeated violations of the standards for situation handling," which means losing his cool while arguing with managers. [Deadspin]
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma — who was suspended for an entire year for allegedly taking part in a "bounty" system where players were rewarded for hurting opponents — has sued NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for defamation. The NFL will likely argue that the collective bargaining agreement gives Goodell cover for his comments about Vilma, and defamation is notoriously difficult to prove for a public figure. However, as Michael McCann at Sports Illustrated argues, it's not really about defamation; it's a full-on assault on the Commissioner and the outsized power that he wields over the NFL's talent. [Los Angeles Times]