Monday Mashup: Jazz Playoff Chances Dying and Losing their name, Tebow Booed In New York And More

Apr 14, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Utah Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward (20) drives to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay (22) during the second half at the FedEx Forum. Memphis Grizzlies defeated Utah Jazz 103-98. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE
Just some random thoughts and opinions from around the sports world on this Monday cleverly called the Monday Mashup:

-The Utah Jazz playoff hopes took a big hit with losses to New Orleans and Memphis over the weekend. One could understand falling to a good Grizzlies team playing on a back-to-back but the Hornets loss was inexcusable. It just once again shows the Jazz are truly not a playoff team. And for those that say it would be good for the younger players to get playoff experience–I say it’s more important to get into the lottery (and still hope somehow they can get Golden State’s pick even though the Warriors are clearly tanking games) to continue the building process. If they made the postseason this year it’s highly probable they would get swept in the first round and in reality the experience won’t matter because they’ll most likely get eliminated in the same fashion next year. To me it makes better sense to continue to acquire young talent and slowly grow to where you could be a playoff factor in a couple years. Meanwhile the radio voice of the Jazz and good friend of mine (worked and built 1320 KFAN in Salt Lake City together in the mid 90’s) went national with this call on a blown Derrick Favors layup. It was picked up by ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in which Locke joined them to talk about it (Locke appears around the 2:50 mark).

-New New Orleans Hornets owner Tom Benson made comments recently that he may try to bring the Jazz name back to its original home. It appears this has not been embraced by Utah Jazz fans which is not surprising and quite honestly they shouldn’t. I worked in sports radio in Salt Lake City for several years and while the argument that the area isn’t known for its bustling jazz music scene is true, the loyal fan base there have adopted and embraced the name and team as its own. Besides is there a bunch of lakes in LA? Should Minnesota (where the Lakers moved from) reclaim that name since their state is full of them? The only advantage I could see for the Jazz organization is that it would be a boom for merchandising if every fan had to buy garb with the new name on it. But at the same time I’m sure the franchise would lose a ton of credibility for allowing the name to be stolen back. It’s not going to happen–the Jazz name will remain in Utah and Benson should just concentrate on putting a winner on the floor. He does that then I’m guessing most fans will support them as the Bobcats or whatever other moniker they end up going by.

-Conflicting reports on whether Tim Tebow was cheered or booed at Sunday’s New York Yankees game. Obviously it was both. It just shows we cynical New York Jets fans won’t be instantly wooed and sold on his charm, christian values etc. That’s right–we’re not like those gullible, soft Denver Broncos fans. He needs to lead us to a Super Bowl and anything else is consider a failure. Speaking of the Donkeys some dude tried out to be a cheerleader and it’s as funy as you would expect. Wouldn’t be surprised if their fans put up billboards in support of him!

-Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine questions the commitment of Kevin Youkilis and everybody acts like it’s the worst thing ever. Now granted he should have talked to Youkilis (he has since apologized) about this before the media but you can’t be surprised–this is how Valentine operates. In the end ownership is to be blamed when Valentine is eventually fired. You can’t bring in a me-manager with a declining veteran franchise and expect it’s going to work. I think most of us could see that as soon as he was hired.

-Love the NHL playoffs but the Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins series is getting flat out brutal with cheap shots:

-And those who know me well realize I’m a huge IndyCar fan. Sunday they raced along the streets of Long Beach (a race I attended and loved last year) and it proved to be entertaining. More passing than you would expect on a tight circuit, great strategy that allowed Team Penske’s Will Power to win his second straight race and plenty of contact including Marco Andretti’s car going airborne. Action wise the sport is definitely better with the new engines and chassis’. However I still think no one really cares which is too bad.

Helio Castroneves Wins IndyCar Opener And Pays Tribute to Dan Wheldon

The 2012 IndyCar opener had many storylines–the debut of a new chassis, new engines and quite frankly a new era. But through it all it really was about Dan Wheldon who passed away in a crash in the final race of last season in Las Vegas. It was fitting the Indianapolis 500 winner’s adopted city would mark the start of the year and his presence was felt throughout the race from the emotional, heartfelt and well done ABC/ESPN prerace story that featured the recap and thoughts from many of the drivers, to Wheldon’s sister Holly waiving the green flag. In the end Wheldon’s impact on the IndyCar family and fans was driven home by race winner Helio Castroneves who stopped his car at Turn 10 which was dedicated to Wheldon and his widow Susie by naming the street “Dan Wheldon Way.” After a winless season a year ago, Castroneves reverted to back Spiderman and his winning celebration by climbing the fence nearest to the crowd. He then sprinted across the pavement and jumped up on the fence bearing the streets new name–pointing to the sign and the sky as a tribute to the driver who gave his life for the sport he loved. I can imagine that Dan Wheldon was showing his patented smile in return.

Five Random Thoughts on BYU, College Football Playoff, the Jets, IndyCar and a Water Skier Crash

Five quick random thoughts and opinions rolling around in my brain today. As a side note just be happy your not the Ohio State water skier above who had an ugly crash. To be honest I didn’t know schools even had water skiing teams.

1. Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon is predicting BYU will be invited to the Big 12. On one end Harmon is as connected to BYU as anyone so you have to take stock in his prediction. On the other there has been so many conflicting reports via there sources over the last few months it’s hard to buy in on anyone’s guess. I just wonder if BYU’s best chance to join has already passed and if the TV networks are supposedly against it then it clearly won’t happen.

2. Do BYU fans miss playing in the MWC yet? Is playing Idaho State in October better than a conference game against the Wyoming or New Mexico’s of the world? If BYU doesn’t get a Big 12 invite be prepared for more games like this in the future. With the best teams in the country being in BCS conferences and with the new MWC-CUSA association it will be tough to get decent games scheduled late in the season.

3. MWC commissioner Craig Thompson has proposed (again) a college football playoff plan that would include 16 teams. It’s smart due to the media coverage he will receive. But it doesn’t matter because clearly the BCS doesn’t care about what the media or Thompson thinks. I’m pretty sure the other BCS commissioners just laugh at Thompson behind his back. Overall I like the MWC plan but I’m pretty sure the next step will be a plus-1 system to try to keep the BCS and the bowls in business.

4. As a Jets fan I appreciate the swagger and toughness Rex Ryan has brought to the franchise. But now he just needs to shut up, get his players to do the same and focus on winning. The problem is this team isn’t as talented as it was a year ago so reaching the stated goal of the Super Bowl is very unlikely. And with the struggles comes the relentless pressure of the New York fans and media. Curious to see how long the overly confident Ryan can go before cracking.

5. It didn’t take long for criticism and opinions to emerge after Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon’s death in Las Vegas. Thoughts have ranged from the cars are just too fast to they should never race on ovals again. As a diehard fan of the sport I just think everybody should just chill, wait for the full investigation and then see what they can do to make the sport safer. You hate to see one of your best drivers lose their life but at the same time every racer knows the risk when they get into the car. Much like how football players know the risks when they strap on the pads etc. Not that this makes it better by any means but 14 of the 15 drivers involved in the Las Vegas crash lived and will race again. Just a decade ago that probably wouldn’t have been the case.

Agree or disagree sound off in the comments section below. Kevin Graham is the Co-Founder of Sports Mashup and was a sports talk radio host and reporter in Salt Lake City. He can also be followed on twitter @KevinGraham1280 and you can email him at [email protected]. Feel free to get interactive and like Sports Mashup on Facebook.

Indy 500 Champ Dan Wheldon Dies in Las Vegas Race

As a IndyCar fan all I can say is I was heartbroken when I saw this and heard the news of the passing of Indianapolis 500 Champion Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas. You always realize the danger of this sport. But when a death happens, particularly to a well known, talented, likable driver it really hits home. Wheldon was 33, married, with two young boys. Thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones. The last tweet that was sent from Wheldon’s twitter account was quite simply “Green!!!!” He stepped on the gas and never let up. That’s what racers do. R.I.P. Dan Wheldon.

Slow motion replay of the crash:

View from Will Power’s car as he went airborne:

The five lap salute for Dan Wheldon:

Crazy Scary IndyCar Crash at Baltimore Grand Prix

What happens when a IndyCar loses it’s brakes going 190 miles per hour? It’s not pretty. That’s what occurred to IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan during the morning warmup Sunday for the Baltimore Grand Prix. The brakes went out heading into turn one as the car rocketed over the right side pod of Helio Castroneves car who was right in front of him. Kanaan went airborne landing on the ground and crashing through several sets of tire barriers. Amazingly he was not hurt as Kanaan claimed having Castroneves in front of him saved his life. After starting at the back of the field in his backup car Kanaan went on to finish third. Team Penske’s Will Power won the inaugural event.

The Column I Wrote That Pissed Off Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick made the expected announcement Thursday that she was going to leave IndyCar next season to race full-time in NASCAR. Patrick will drive a full Nationwide Series schedule for JR Motorsports–the team owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. She will also run eight to 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races with Stewart-Haas Racing. will continue their sponsorship so expect to see her appear in more edgy commercials.

Most diehard IndyCar fans such as myself are not sad to see her leave. Her popularity has been based more on marketing and her good looks than her performance on the track. In seven years of IndyCar racing she has just one win. However I’m not naive enough to admit that she is by far the most popular driver on the circuit who attracted in the casual fans that IndyCar desperately needs.  It’s a big blow for the sport that’s trying to become relevant again.

Because of her popularity, Danica was untouchable. I found that out first hand when I wrote a column for (which is now calling her overrated. It turns out Danica didn’t appreciate it and had her people send me and my boss at the time an angry email. Because Versus carried many of the IndyCar races they asked me to change the column. I refused and they took it off the site. Below I included the column and the email that was sent by Danica’s publicist. I will say if she couldn’t handle criticism from a little old internet IndyCar columnist she’s in for a rude awakening in NASCAR if she doesn’t do well. Let’s just say those NASCAR media boys take their racing seriously. column May, 2010:

If there is one driver on the circuit that needs a strong performance at the Indy 500, it’s Danica Patrick. Her season thus far has been, well–how I can put it? Disapointing. Other words I could use to describe her racing include underwhelming, inexcusable, confusing, poor, and awful–you get the idea. And it’s time to call it the way it is. Patrick simply stated is…overrated.

I know she’s considered the most popular driver on the circuit. She brings recognition to a sport that so desperately needs it. And I know she has been competitive in the past. But these days in sports it’s about “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately.” And most importantly it’s about winning. And for Patrick she has become this supposed star by winning just once. And the rate she’s going this season, her win total is going to be stuck there.

For those unfamiliar with her driving history, she stormed onto the IndyCar scene in 2005. An attractive woman with a penchant and ability to drive fast and compete favorably against the men. That year she recorded two top-five and seven top-10 finishes, and earned three poles picking up Rookie of the Year honors. More importantly is how she performed at Indy, qualifying and finishing fourth, the highest starting and ending position for a woman in the event’s history. And who could forget that she became the first woman to lead the historical race for 19 laps. In 2006, she finished ninth in the series standings with the Rahal-Letterman team and eighth at Indy. In 2007, her first season with Andretti Green Racing, Patrick had her best finish taking second at Belle Isle in Detroit and was seventh in the overall standings. She achieved history in 2008 by becoming the first female to win a major closed-course auto race taking the checkered flag at Twin Ring Motegi. And last year was her best overall season finishing fifth with a podium third place showing at Indy.

One of her biggest mistakes this year in my opinion was her venture into NASCAR. That led to speculation on how that would impact her IndyCar career, with talk that she might eventually leave the series altogether. And while that appeared to be negative publicity for IndyCar, Patrick was reaping in the attention and praise for a possible switch. The problem was she had trouble adjusting to the cars and new form of racing, finishing just 35th, 31st and 36th respectively in three Nationwide races. It hasn’t been much better since she returned to the racing that made her successful in the first place.

Currently Patrick sits 16th in the standings, 104 points back from the leader Will Power. Her best finish this season is seventh in St. Petersburg which is commendable considering she qualified 21st. However, that has been her only appearance in the top 10 this year. The rest are: Sao Paulo-15; Alabama-19; Long Beach-16; and Kansas-11. Excuses have ranged from having a new race strategist for the third time in three years to that she historically has struggled on road and street courses which entailed the first four races of the season. That doesn’t explain though the Kansas finish on the first oval of the year where she qualified ninth but ended up just 11th. Heck, she is barely the best “woman” driver on the circuit, holding just a 21 point lead over newcomer Simona De Silvestro. She has gone from one of the top drivers on her own Andretti Autosport team to the worst. Ryan Hunter-Reay is fourth in the standings, Tony Kanaan is eighth and Marco Andretti is 13th.

Combining the success on the track with her beauty has enabled Patrick to transcend her sport. She has become one of those rare athletes that everyone knows by their first name–Lebron, Kobe, Tiger, Danica. And she has completely embraced this fame and image. That is on display from her racy spread in Maxim to her swimsuit appearance in SI to her Go Daddy commercials that air today. And while I have no problem with anyone capitalizing and taking advantage of opportunities (it’s the American way right?), one has to be prepared to take the heat when you don’t live up to expectations in your chosen field that made you famous in the first place. And for a “sexy” woman athlete being and remaining relevant is even more difficult when your performance in your sport suffers. It’s one thing to be a “hot” race car driver. That’s makes you unique. But if you’re not winning races, eventually the “hotness” wears off and you just become one of many pretty faces. Remember former “hot” tennis star Anna Kournikova? She never won and where is she now? Exactly my point.

Some athletes can experience success and use that as motivation to continue to work hard to get even better. Others get a taste of the limelight and it takes their attention away from becoming a true contender and, ultimately a champion of their sport. Before you know it, those people end up being forgotten. For Patrick’s sake, I hope she takes the time to focus on what it took for her to get to where she is today…driving fast and trying to win. If she can accomplish that at Indy she will no longer be overrated, at least in my book, and then she can go on and look pretty all she wants.

Email from Danica’s media relations person:
Can you please help me understand the rationale behind the “Is Danica Patrick Overrated?” blog that is featured in the IndyCar section of today?

Last time I checked, Versus is the IZOD IndyCar Series’ TV “partner” and has a vested interest in the promotion and advancement of the series. And, yet, you somehow felt it was appropriate to post this?

Regardless of the type of season she has had to date (five races into a 17-race season after posting a fifth-place result in the 2009 championship), Danica Patrick is arguably the most recognizable figure in the IZOD IndyCar Series, bar none, and was just named one of the 30 most marketable athletes in the world. The series is one of your broadcast properties and by trying to stain her credentials, you do nothing more than weaken your own investment.

Additionally, the site’s inability to display proper images of Danica does nothing for its credibility with fans, teams and sponsors. You do realize that the feature image is of Danica in her NASCAR firesuit and that one of the images within the story is from 2009, right? I’m sure Honda, Firestone and – three of your biggest IndyCar supporters – expect better treatment than this.

I assume you’ll want Danica Patrick to support your network publicly and make herself available whenever the network needs her at race events during the second half of the IZOD IndyCar Series season. I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption at this point.

Please remove the blog post immediately and help me understand your thought process.

Thank you.


Al Larsen
Director of Corporate Communications
Andretti Autosport

Is Danica Patrick’s Title as Hottest Race Car Driver in Jeopardy?

IndyCar and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick has been considered the hottest racer for the past several years. Her hotness title may be put to the test this weekend as former Price is Right model Maryeve Dufault will make her debut Saturday in the Nationwide Series Napa Auto Parts 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. She is the first Canadian woman to race in NASCAR. As the story goes she used her money from modeling to purchase the equipment necessary to go racing. So basically she used her “equipment” to purchase “equipment!” Ok, bad joke! Then again you can argue Patrick has done the same thing since she has won just one race in her career. Dufault will be driving the No. 81 for MacDonald Motorsports and will compete head-to-head with Patrick who is also racing in the event. Forget about the race–the bigger question is who’s hotter?  May the best woman win!

Someone on YouTube actually put together a collage of photo’s together of the two:

IndyCar Driver Will Power Flips Off Race Officials

The picture above is IndyCar Team Penske driver Will Power flipping off race officials after they decided to restart the Indy 225 in New Hampshire Sunday despite the fact the race track was clearly wet. Power, among other drivers including Danica Patrick, crashed on the restart. Power was caught by the ABC cameras giving the “double-bird” to race official Brian Barnhart who is ultimately responsible for making that call. Barnhart admitted to the mistake and declared the race over reverting back to the way the drivers lined up before the restart meaning Ryan Hunter-Reay won while Power finished fifth.

Obviously a hilarious picture above and video below from a driver who you have to love and had every right to be angry. Remember it was just a few weeks ago Power called another driver a “wanker.” What’s not funny is us diehard IndyCar fans that have to continue to endure these idiotic decisions by Barnhart. While I give him credit for admitting the mistake, there have been way too many during his tenure and it’s time for him to go. This is a sport that has the potential to grow and become relevant again but the incompetence from race control to go along with the mismanagement of the circuit in general over the years has basically driven it into the ground–or should I say into a wall. As a diehard fan all of my life and a media member that has covered the sport (Versus/ I’m just about done. And judging by their fan support and television ratings I don’t think they can afford to lose anymore of us.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to provide comments below. Kevin Graham is the Co-Founder of Sports Mashup and can be followed on twitter @KevinGraham1280 and you can email him at [email protected].

IndyCar’s Will Power Calls Another Driver a "Wanker"

The IndyCar race in Toronto was wildly entertaining as drivers ran into each other on a regular basis and when that happens tempers flare. The most controversial moment occurred when series points leader Dario Franchitti spun his rival Will Power. Later Power was taken out of the race altogether when Alex Tagliani ran into him from behind. A fuming Power then accused Franchitti of being dirty and called Tagliani a “wanker”. Later Power even called Franchitti out on Twitter calling him a “princess” and fans of Franchitti wankers. Classic stuff and for a race series trying to rebuild and become relevant again it’s exactly what the sport needs.

Franchitti’s tap and Power’s interview:

Dan Wheldon Wins the Indy 500 After J.R. Hildebrand Hits the Wall in the Final Turn

It was perhaps the most dramatic finish in Indy 500 history Sunday. Dan Wheldon took the checkered flag only after rookie J.R. Hildebrand hit the wall on the final turn despite having a comfortable lead. An incredible finish to what was a great race. Read my column on the race at Otherwise enjoy the finish below and also included the Hot Wheels world record jump attempt:

The Hot Wheels record jump:

And here is the mystery driver of the jump: