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Houston Astrodome Hit With Code Violations July 18, 2008

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 12:19 pm

HOUSTON — Action has been taken against a Houston landmark and people have been told to stay away for their own safety, KPRC Local 2 Investigates reported Thursday.


Only maintenance workers and security guards are allowed to enter the Astrodome after what was once considered the eighth wonder of the world was hit with a laundry list of code violations.


The City of Houston’s Fire Marshal’s Office leveled several citations against the 43-year-old structure.

Local 2 Investigates obtained copies of those citations, which show the Astrodome’s fire suppression system is shot.


Joe Leggio with the fire marshal’s office told Local 2 Investigates that the system does not have enough pressure to work the sprinkler system or provide enough water to allow firefighters to hook up their hoses.


Other citations include an inoperable fire alarm system, faulty emergency lights and several electrical problems, including a non-working generator.


The problems for the Astrodome began in January when the city of Houston determined the building needed a full certificate of occupancy. These certificates are required before a building can legally be inhabited or used for business.


Leggio said major repairs and renovations would have to be made to the Astrodome before a certificate would be issued. Until now, the Astrodome has operated with only a partial certificate of occupancy.


Harris County owns the Astrodome but the building is managed by SMG, which also manages all the buildings in Reliant Park. Officials with SMG told Local 2 Investigates repairs were already being made when the new fire code citations were issued on Wednesday.


Leggio said the city determined the Astrodome needed a full certificate because smaller events and functions, such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Hide Out, were still being hosted inside the building. There are also 36 employees who office inside the Astrodome. These employees work for Aramark and SMG’s Human Resources Offices, SCS Security and Reliant Park’s parking operation.


Leggio said he has told SMG and the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation that events and functions can no longer be held in the Astrodome until the problems are fixed. Leggio said employees can enter the building on a voluntary basis, but he doesn’t advise it.


The executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, Willie Loston, said the decision had already been made to voluntarily move all employees out of the Astrodome and into temporary offices.


Loston argued that repairing and renovating the entire Astrodome is unnecessary. Loston said only a portion of the Astrodome is used and will never again be used as it was in the days when the Houston Oilers and Astros called the Astrodome home.


Loston cited the example of the inoperable fire alarm system. Loston said the system is only installed in the area of the Astrodome that was once the offices for Astros owner Drayton McLane and offices for Astrodome USA. Loston said the rest of the Astrodome has never had a fire alarm system.


Loston said SMG and he have had a series of meetings with the city of Houston, trying to determine if the Astrodome is “grandfathered.” Loston said since the Astrodome was built in 1965, it may not be subject to all current city of Houston building and fire codes. Loston said if this is the case, then the number of required repairs and renovations can be trimmed down.


Loston said if the city of Houston determines the entire Astrodome must meet current code requirements, then it will cost $30 million to repair and bring up to code. Loston admitted he is frustrated that he has not gotten a final ruling from the city of Houston on this point.


He also said there is no record that the Astrodome has ever been required to meet the codes the city of Houston is now requiring it have before a full certificate of occupancy can be issued.


Loston said because of this unknown, he had to inform officials with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that the Astrodome may not be available next year for some of its functions.


Loston said he is keeping Harris County Commissioners abreast of these developments. Commissioners will have to approve any expenses for repairs and renovation.


Local 2 Investigates also received a statement from County Judge Ed Emmett.


“This does not come as a big surprise,” he said. “I have always been concerned about people being in that building.”


Michael Johnson To Return Olympic Gold Medal June 3, 2008

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 12:39 pm
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LONDON (AP) — Olympic great Michael Johnson says he was “shocked” by former teammate Antonio Pettigrew’s doping admission and will return the gold medal the two of them helped the United States win in the 1,600-meter relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“As difficult as it is, I will be returning it to the International Olympic Committee because I don’t want it,” Johnson wrote in a column in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph. “I feel cheated, betrayed and let down.”

Pettigrew testified on May 22 at the trial of disgraced coach Trevor Graham in San Francisco that he had used banned performance enhancing drugs throughout his long career. The testimony had been described earlier in the trial.

“The news that Antonio was scheduled to testify to having taken performance-enhancing drugs shocked me like no other drug-related story,” Johnson wrote. “…He was someone I considered a friend.”

The gold medal is one of five Johnson won in his standout career. He still holds the world record in the 200 and 400 meters. Pettigrew’s testimony means that three of the four runners in the finals on the U.S. relay team have been tainted by drugs

Twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison both were suspended for doping violations. Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 after admitting he used performance enhancers. Calvin Harrison tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2003 and was suspended for two years. Like Pettigrew, they were coached by Graham.

Earlier, Johnson had refused to give up the medal after it was revealed that another U.S. relay teammate, Jerome Young, had tested positive in 1999. Young, it was later ruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, had been wrongly cleared by U.S. officials to compete. He ran only in a preliminary round, and the athletes won an appeal to keep the medals.

During the Young controversy, Johnson wrote, he had spoken with Pettigrew and both agreed they should fight giving up the medal.

“I look back on those conversations now and am amazed that he could talk to me about this knowing all along that he was guilty and that the medal was tainted anyway,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson said he is “deeply disappointed in Antonio and in the sport of athletics. I now realize that there have been a significant number of athletes and coaches in this sport who have cheated and taken the short cut, and many of them knew who else was cheating.”

Johnson talked about his past rigorous defense of the sport against a media that he felt overemphasized drug use and virtually ignored the true accomplishments of the athletes.

“But now,” he wrote, “I feel that I have been naive.”

Johnson said he would send the medal to the International Olympic Committee.

“I know the medal was not fairly won and that it is dirty,” Johnson wrote, “and so I have moved it from the location where I have always kept my medals because it doesn’t belong there. And it doesn’t belong to me.”

Johnson vowed, though, that he would “not give up on this sport and the current group of young athletes like Jeremy Wariner, Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Christine Ohuruogu, Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell.

“I will continue to support them but the difference is that now I can certainly understand why some fans may be hesitant to do so themselves.”

Johnson did not return a telephone message left at his office.


Detroit Pistons Fire Head Coach

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 12:32 pm
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Flip Saunders was fired as Detroit Pistons coach Tuesday, four days after his team was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

President of basketball operations Joe Dumars said it’s “time for a new voice to lead our team.” Saunders had a year left on a four-year deal he signed in 2005. The decision comes three years after Saunders took over for Larry Brown, who led the Pistons to two straight NBA finals.

“Decisions like this are difficult to make, especially with the success we have had throughout the last three regular seasons,” Dumars said in a statement. “However, at this time, I feel it is necessary to make a change.”

A message left for Saunders was not immediately returned. Dumars was to speak Tuesday at the team’s practice facility.

Assistant coach Michael Curry appears to be the leading candidate to replace Saunders. Other possible candidates include Detroit assistant coach Terry Porter and former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.

In Saunders’ three seasons, the Pistons were 176-70 in the regular season and 30-21 in the postseason, but they lost in the Eastern Conference finals each year.

The Pistons have appeared in six straight conference finals, the first franchise to do so since the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s. But they also are the second team in league history to lose in the round before the NBA finals three years in a row, joining the Celtics from 1953-55.

Dumars decided a year ago to bring back key players who have been together since the 2004 championship season, as well as Saunders, while infusing energy with rookies and young reserves. But after the loss in Game 6 of the East finals to Boston on Friday, the likelihood of change grew.

Before coming to Detroit, Saunders was 411-326 with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1995-05. He led them to eight straight postseason appearances — seven first-round exits and an appearance in the 2004 conference finals. After leading Minnesota to a franchise-high 58 wins, he was fired with a 25-26 mark in the 2004-05 season.


Vince McMahon Is Giving Away 1 Million Dollars to RAW Fan

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 12:32 pm
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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Wrestling fans eager to get their hands on Vince McMahon’s money will have to jump through a few hoops first.

The World Wrestling Entertainment chairman announced during last week’s “Monday Night Raw” that he would give away $1 million of his own wealth to viewers, but he didn’t specify when or how it would be distributed.

The cash will be given away as part of a lengthy promotional sweepstakes, McMahon and the WWE told The Associated Press.

For a chance to win $1 million each week for the foreseeable future, viewers must pre-register on and then watch the beginning of “Raw” each week to receive a special code, which viewers must tell McMahon if he calls them during the live broadcast.

The code will change each week of the promotion and will not be revealed until the beginning of each episode.

“People can view this as my own version of an economic stimulus plan to benefit our viewers,” McMahon told the AP.

While the USA Network series continues to be one of the most watched shows on cable TV, its ratings have recently declined. Last Monday’s episode received the lowest ratings for a Memorial Day broadcast in five years, according to Nielsen Media Research.

McMahon said his goal with the giveaway, which begins June 9, is to reward loyal “Raw” fans and draw new and former viewers back to the show.

USA is owned by General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal.


No. 3 Pick From NFL Draft Gets 6-Year, $72 Million Dollar Contract May 21, 2008

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 9:19 am
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ATLANTA (AP)—For the second time in eight years, the Atlanta Falcons opened the vault and dropped a ton of cash on a franchise quarterback.

Matt Ryan, the No. 3 pick in last month’s draft, signed a $72 million, six-year contract Tuesday. The announcement of the new deal came with smiles, confident talk of the future and no mention of Michael Vick, the first pick in 2001 who signed a $130 million extension, the richest in the league at the time, in December 2005.

Team owner Arthur Blank and the Falcons were especially eager to sign Ryan, avoid a holdout and help the franchise move away from the Vick era with new general manager Thomas Dimitroff, new coach Mike Smith and now a new quarterback.

“The circumstances are always different when it comes to a player, and in Matt’s case the research that Thomas did and Coach Smith did, they were extremely comfortable in Matt and what Matt stood for and what he’s going to be for the long term,” said team president Rich McKay, the Falcons’ lead negotiator.

“I don’t think there was any hesitancy because of the experience we just had.”

Vick last year began a 23-month prison sentence after he confessed to bankrolling a dogfighting ring.

The Falcons’ haste in finalizing the deal with Ryan received a boost when word leaked the NFL owners, who met Tuesday in Atlanta, were about to opt out of a labor deal with the players’ union in 2011. Before the owners’ unanimous vote, the deal could not have gone through 2013.

The Falcons and Ryan’s agent, Tom Condon, already had agreed on six years as the basis for their deal, and to make that happen they needed to complete the negotiations by Tuesday.

“We couldn’t have gotten a six-year contract if we didn’t get this deal done by 4 today,” Blank said.

“That was the urgency in getting it done today. The structure of the contract would not have been permissible because of the opt out.”

McKay said he was involved in negotiations until 3 a.m. Tuesday and started again at 6 a.m.

Ryan is guaranteed $34.75 million. His guaranteed money is $4.75 million more than that given to Jake Long, the No. 1 overall choice who also is represented by Condon.

Ryan worked behind quarterbacks Chris Redman and Joey Harrington at his first minicamp with the team this month, but he’s getting paid to be the starter. He said he’ll enter training camp expecting to play immediately.

“I think that’s certainly the goal, to prepare to play, to do everything you can to be on the field and play,” Ryan said. “That’s what I’m going to do. I think I did well picking things up in minicamp. I know there’s still a lot to learn. I think I’ve done pretty well so far.”

Redman, Harrington and Byron Leftwich shared the starting job last season. Leftwich was released after the season. Ryan will join Harrington, Redman and D.J. Shockley in the quarterback competition in training camp.

Redman, who finished the 2007 season as the starter, is the favorite to open 2008 with the job. Redman worked with the first-team offense with newly signed running back Michael Turner in minicamp.

The 6-foot-5 Ryan ranked third in the nation with his school-record 4,507 yards passing in 2007.

“It’s highly unusual to get a first-round pick this high in the first round signed in the month of May, and it’s indicative of the kind of person he is,” Blank said.

“We’re anxious that he be part of the team and show that kind of leadership.”

Ryan said he wasn’t surprised to have the deal done so soon.

“I knew everyone had made the commitment and wanted to get it done,” Ryan said. “I’m just excited and happy. … I’m proud of the fact I’m an Atlanta Falcon.”

Blank said he wanted to sign Ryan early to avoid a repeat of quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s holdout with the Oakland Raiders last year. Russell, the top pick in last year’s draft, missed all of training camp, signed three days before the 2007 season and made his only start in the final game of the season.

“We don’t want to go through a situation like they went through last year in Oakland,” Blank said. “This young man wants to come in and compete.”

McKay said he experienced a holdout while with Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers drafted quarterback Trent Dilfer No. 6 overall in 1994.

“I really felt it affected the player and it affected the franchise,” McKay said.

“I thought it was not just the right message for the franchise but it’s the right thing to do for the quarterback if you can get him in camp on time so that he doesn’t at all fall behind and have one of those rookie years where he doesn’t catch up.”


Casino, DA: Charles Barkley’s Debt Still Unpaid May 20, 2008

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 3:24 pm
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LAS VEGAS — Just one day after former NBA great Charles Barkley said he paid his loan to the Wynn Hotel-Casino and was giving up gambling for a while, casino officials — along with Clark County District Attorney David Roger — said Barkley’s $400,000 gambling debt is still outstanding.


During an announcement Tuesday, Wynn officials and the district attorney’s office said there’s been no payment and no contact with the former NBA star and TV analyst.


During Turner Network Television’s pre-game show before the NBA playoffs Monday, Barkley said the debt had been paid and he was giving up gambling.


In a complaint filed last week, Rogers said Barkley borrowed four $100,000 gambling markers from the Wynn on Oct. 18 and 19. When he finished playing, the report said, Barkley left the debt unpaid.

Officials from the Wynn said they are not allowed to comment on a pending case.


The district attorney’s office has yet to hear from Barkley. Roger has promised to file a criminal complaint if Barkley doesn’t pay up by June 9.


Once Again, It’s Time to Dissect Tom Brady’s Headwear

Filed under: Sports Nuts — gervmaine @ 8:52 am
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Handsome Tom was courtside at the Celtics Game Seven triumph over the Cleveland LeBrons, and on his head rested a San Francisco Giants hat. It’s not nearly as scandalous as the time he donned a Yankees cap, but this time of year, there’s no bit of news too small to examine.

Possible explanations:

• The Giants, of course, were the long-time employers of Barry Bonds, who was just hit with 15 charges of perjury. And with Spygate dominating the sports headlines recently, Tom wanted to show solidarity among dirty, dirty cheaters in sports.

• Tom is enthralled at the height of basketball players, and roots especially for the really tall ones. Go giants.

• Tom will do anything to get young white children to gaze at him in amazement, and if that means a gaudy bracelet and the hat of a terrible west coast baseball team while attending an east coast basketball game, then so be it.

• Tom is from the Bay Area in California, has probably been a lifelong Giants fan, and being Tom Brady, can wear whatever he damn well pleases. It’s still less embarrassing than the people who wear Red Sox jerseys to the most important game the Celtics have played in five years.

I like that last option the best.