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Caroms, quirks and odd bounces in sports in 2012

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Caroms, quirks and odd bounces in sports in 2012

Maybe if they were 22 years old - throwing down drinks in a bar and their faces painted in school colors - this would make sense.

But they were far from 22 and their complexions had long lost the glow of youth. And, most assuredly, they were not in a bar.

They were two basketball fans, both past the age of Medicare eligibility, and they took their game seriously. They also happened to be patients in a dialysis clinic in Georgetown, Ky.

According to authorities, the confrontation came five days before Kentucky played Louisville in the NCAA semifinals. Wildcats vs. Cardinals can make for dicey conversation and the men began exchanging words.

Dialysis assists kidney function, keeping the body chemically balanced by removing salt, waste and excess water. In this case, however, not much was done to contain the buildup of bile.

The 68-year-old Kentucky fan receiving treatment extended a finger to the Louisville fan, and it was not to signify that the Wildcats were No. 1. The 71-year-old Louisville fan responded by punching him in the face.

Police were summoned to the clinic. The Kentucky fan chose to not press charges.

His pain and blood pressure perhaps eased by the weekend: Kentucky beat Louisville 69-61 and went on to win the national title.

Dialysis units were not the only odd spots where sports traveled in 2012: Two sumo wrestlers - one 6-foot-8 and 625 pounds - were cast in a Canadian opera production of ``Semele''; Cowboys Stadium outside Dallas became home to a Victoria's Secret outlet; Lance Armstrong was stripped not only his seven Tour de France titles but of his 2006 honorary degree from Tufts University; and one-time NFL star Chad Ochocinco and House Speaker John Boehner wound up Twitter buddies.

Great heft was not limited to opera. At the London Olympics, judo fighter Ricardo Blas entered the 220-pound-and-over division at 480 pounds, nearly double that of most competitors. It was noted that Blas - the heaviest man at these Olympics - weighed more than the entire Japanese women's gymnastics team.

The London Games also brought an outpouring of joy from the mother of Thailand's Pimsiri Sirikaew, a weightlifting silver medalist. A bacchanalian romp, however, was not in Amornat Sirikaew's plans. She told Thai media she would mark her daughter's triumph by joining a monastery.

Looking to get in on the Olympic fun was a New Zealand farm group that wants sheep shearing as an Olympic sport. It was not immediately clear if winners would forgo gold medals for cashmere sweaters.

Other countries, with seemingly more urgent needs, went in strange directions. Haiti, the Palestinian territories, Togo and Eritrea joined the International Ski Federation, a step that did not exactly strike fear into the Swiss and Austrians. Turkmenistan, where scorching heat can reach 120 degrees, was ordered by presidential decree to create an ice hockey league.

Politics and sports invariably find themselves as tag-team partners, and this year was no different.

Ochocinco, getting ready for the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, was watching the state of the union address on TV. He was puzzled by the frowning man seated behind the president. When told it was the speaker of the House, Ochocinco (who has since reverted to his original name of Chad Johnson) consoled Boehner on Twitter: ``If all else seems bad in life, just remember I love you kind sir.''

Kindness was surely not on the mind of Donald Trump when he took on all of Scotland. The real estate magnate turned presidential candidate was incensed that a ``horrendous'' wind farm is to be built off the Scottish coast by his luxury golf resort. In a seething letter, in which he invoked his Scottish-reared mother, Trump wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond: ``With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than any event in Scottish history.''

After Germany's loss in the semifinals of soccer's European Championship, one of its lawmakers rebuked the players for not singing the national anthem with proper gusto, a performance he deemed ``shameful.''

Like politics, religion crossed paths with sports inn 2012.

Manchester City, preparing for its Premier League title defense, headed to a village in the Austrian countryside for rest and training. But one thing Man City did not count on - bells from a medieval church that rattled the players from sleep at 7 a.m. Egon Pfeifer, the priest at St. Oswald Church, held his almighty ground. He said the bells would keep ringing ``even if the queen of England wants them to stop.''

A divinely named baseball team in Minnesota shed its ecclesiastical ties for one night. Two atheists groups were in town for a conference and sponsoring a minor league game. So the St. Paul Saints rebranded themselves for one night as ``Mr. Paul Aints.''

This was also a year of odds-defying moments.

Caleb Lloyd was sitting in the left field seats at a Cincinnati Reds game one spring night when he caught a home run ball hit by Reds pitcher Mike Leake. The next batter, Zack Cozart, also homered to left. And there, as if out of the mist of ``Field of Dreams,'' was Lloyd yet again - ready to stab it, with one hand.

``I was like, `Oh, my gosh, that's just crazy,''' he said.

As was the case Down Under: two amateur golfers in Sydney making consecutive holes-in-one. The odds of two golfers from the same foursome acing the same hole? The National Hole in One Registry website says it's 17 million to 1.

Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles also made a stop in the Twilight Zone. He went 0 for 8 and struck out five times as a designated hitter in a 17-inning victory over Boston. But with the bullpen depleted, he wound up being called to the mound, the first time he pitched in the pros. He threw two scoreless innings and got the win.

``I was like, `Sweet!' I get to try something different today,'' he said. ``Because hitting ain't working.''

Lots of things weren't working for one team at a girls' high school basketball game in Indiana - Arlington lost to Bloomington South 107-2. Bloomington South coach Larry Winters said he wasn't trying to humiliate an opponent. He told the Indianapolis Star he didn't want his players to stop shooting because that ``would have been more embarrassing.''

But for real embarrassment - some might say perseverance beyond all dignity and reason - check in with Russ Berkman. He's from the Seattle area and he won a lottery for passes to a practice round the day before the Masters. His dog had other ideas. Sierra took to the four tickets like a shank of veal and ate them.

What to do? Berkman told KJR radio his girlfriend insisted there was but one course of action. So he got Sierra to cough it all up, and Berkman then began the unsavory task of piecing together 20 shreds of tickets coated with dog vomit.

He reassembled almost three-quarters of them, photographed his handiwork and explained what happened to Augusta National. The club reprinted his tickets, and the Masters was on.

A happy ending for Berkman, although Sierra may have seen it differently.

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Associated Press writers Bruce Schreiner in Louisvillle, Ky., Dan Sewell in Cincinnati and freelancer Ben McConville in Edinburgh, Scotland, contributed to this report.

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Chris Cooley remembers mostly positive reaction to Redskins' name from Native Americans

Chris Cooley remembers mostly positive reaction to Redskins' name from Native Americans

With the Washington Redskins' name change dominating headlines across the sports world, former players have been asked a multitude of questions to get their thoughts on the team's controversial nickname.

One of those has been, "Do you remember people having a problem with the name while you were on the team?"

The answers have, of course, been mixed. Santana Moss told NBC Sports Washington's Matt Weyrich that he first noticed a problem years into his Washington tenure getting off the team bus in Seattle, while Brian Mitchell has said he's been dealing with the negative reaction around the name since the start of his career in 1990.

On Thursday, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley joined the Kevin Sheehan show on The Team 980 and described his unique experience receiving feedback from Native Americans on the team's name.

"It's probably time to change the name, and we're in that world where you can change it, but it doesn't mean that I believe it had anything to do with anything racial. It didn't," Cooley said. "Guys I played for didn't believe that, over 75 tribes that I traveled to didn't feel that way six years ago when I went to those reservations and 30 or 40 more that I went to by myself.

"You know what, it's completely fine if you change your mind on something like that," Cooley said. "And I'll be all for it, but when I was with the Washington Redskins I don't believe anybody felt it was a racially driven name."

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Cooley traveled to several reservations across the country to gain an understanding of a culture his former team's likeness was representing. Instead of having to tie his opinion to polls and other methods for gathering a group of people's opinion, he got his information straight from the source.

"The overwhelming majority was, 'Don't forget us,' 'Don't care,' 'That's fine but I'm a Cowboys fan,'" Cooley said. "It was just a conversation that was had very comfortably."

Cooley emphasized going to reservations alone in order to get honest answers from its residents. If he were there with the Redskins in a larger group, he feared he wouldn't get the same feedback as if he were alone. Ultimately, after speaking to hundreds of Native Americans, the Wyoming native got a similar response to his questions.

RELATED: NEW NAME REPORTEDLY WON'T INCLUDE NATIVE AMERICAN IMAGERY

"We would go to casinos, we would go to rodeos, and [I'd] ask them like 'Hey how do you feel about the Redskins' name?'" he said. "People would tell us, and it was more than 9-to-1 that felt positively about it, at least on the trips that I went."

However, as Cooley acknowledged, people can and are allowed to change their minds. The response a few years ago may have been positive, but that may not be the case anymore. 

According to a report from the Associated Press, more than a dozen Native American groups sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to force Washington to change its name. 

So, in the end, Cooley isn't going to be "an old man on the front porch" as he called it, and push against change just to keep things the way they were. 

"Times change with people and all I'm saying is I don't feel like in my time there it was ever racially driven," he said. "But I'm also not going to sit here argue for it. If people want it changed then let's change it."

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Redskins assistant coach witnessed former Raider Barret Robbins' early mental-health issues

Redskins assistant coach witnessed former Raider Barret Robbins' early mental-health issues

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Mysterious Disappearance That Changed A Super Bowl, dives into how Oakland Raiders star center Barret Robbins missed Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 after 24 hours of partying. 

Barret Robbins was just a junior at Texas Christian when his manic episodes began. 

A potent mixture of steroids, alcohol and marijuana left the future NFL offensive lineman in a daze. It felt like he was sleepwalking. Driving to Austin from his school in Fort Worth, not really knowing what he was doing, seeking some level of attention, he smashed the window of a car dealership. 

Robbins had no intention of taking anything. But it looked like he was trying to burglarize the place. So, Austin police arrested him. It was so out of character, his TCU coaches, including current Redskins tight ends coach Pete Hoener, weren’t sure what to make of the episode. 

“My first inclination on something like that with him was ‘Man, he must have been really drunk,’” Hoener told NBC Sports Bay Area for the sixth episode of NBC’s Sports Uncovered podcast. “You know, been with the wrong person or something.”

Robbins went to jail and then to rehab before being allowed to play his senior year at TCU. But it was the beginning of a descent that continued long after Robbins failed to post for the Raiders’ appearance in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. 

The latest Sports Uncovered podcast by NBC Sports takes a look at Robbins' infamous Super Bowl disappearance and what has happened to him since then. Listen to the full episode below or by subscribing wherever you get your podcasts:

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Who knows if the outcome would have changed? Oakland lost 48-21. But Robbins’ life has never been the same. One of the best offensive linemen in football was out of the NFL by 2004 and left alone to deal with the depression and bipolar disorder that plagued him since college. 

The incident at the car dealership led to a diagnosis of depression by the TCU medical staff. Robbins’ story is difficult to listen to. He spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area for a 2011 interview that serves as the basis for the podcast, but otherwise few know his whereabouts now, including his former Raiders teammates. 

Robbins told NBC Sports Bay Area he likely had episodes before that one in college. But nothing where he ended up in trouble. It wouldn’t stay that way. He managed a nine-year career in the NFL before things fell apart. 

That saddens Hoener, who left TCU in 1997 and has spent the past 20 years as an assistant in the NFL, including nine with Rivera on the Carolina Panthers’ coaching staff and again this season with the Redskins. 

Hoener knew Robbins when he was just a teenager. The answer when odd things happened to a player back then was he must be drinking too much. Robbins just didn’t have the same support system that would be in place today for players at almost any level of football. Mental health is treated so much differently now. It might have made a difference for Robbins. 

“I think the thing that’s come of all this is there’s much better communication now with the medical staff and psychologists,” Hoener said. “And everybody up through the college level – maybe even the high school level – up through our level. So that a lot of those things don’t slip through.”

Want more Sports Uncovered? Check out Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn't get to know, also part of the Sports Uncovered podcast series.

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

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