Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

Ted Ligety wins super-G world title


SCHLADMING, Austria (AP) — Ted Ligety produced a blistering finish Wednesday to win the super-G at the world championships, his first career victory in the discipline.


The American took risks in the final section of the Planai course to win in 1 minute, 23.96 seconds.


Gauthier De Tessieres of France was 0.20 back in second. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who won three of the four World Cup super-Gs this season, was another 0.02 back in third.


Defending champion Christof Innerhofer of Italy finished 1.09 off the pace.


"Today was unbelievable," said Ligety, who was the 10th starter. "It was a nerve-wracking 30 minutes, waiting for all the favorites to come down. (To) finally see (Svindal) come down right behind me was a huge weight off my shoulders."


Ligety made a super-G podium only once before, finishing second in a World Cup at Val d'Isere, France, in 2009. This season, he had finished fourth in two races.


"I am having a good year in super-G but I didn't think this was possible," Ligety said. "I thought I had a chance for a medal. I knew I had to take many risks at the bottom to have a chance. I tried not to slide and to ski as clean as possible."


The gold is his second medal from a world championship. Two years ago, he won the giant slalom in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.


It was the second medal in two days for the U.S. ski team, one day after Julia Mancuso took third in the women's super-G.


"Julia always does well at the big events," Ligety said. "I knew I had a good chance myself today and it's great to make a contribution to the success of the team."


Lindsey Vonn crashed in Tuesday's race, tearing knee ligaments that will keep her out for the rest of the season.


"It's very sad for Lindsey because she was doing great but it didn't matter for my race," Ligety said. "You have to move on. I am sure she will be back next year. As a ski racer, you can't let that affect you too much."


Ligety trailed then-leader De Tessieres by 0.41 at the first intermediate time 30 seconds into his run. He reduced the deficit to 0.06 over the next 30 seconds and beat the Frenchman in the bottom section.


De Tessieres, whose best super-G result on the circuit was eighth, had not qualified for the French team but replaced Johan Clarey, who pulled out with a back injury on Sunday.


"It's difficult to describe this week," De Tessieres said. "I hadn't qualified and got a phone call from the coach a couple of days ago and now I am here. I am so happy. It's amazing, a crazy story."


Several favorites led Ligety at the first split, including Austria's Matthias Mayer, Italy's Matteo Marsaglia and Innerhofer, and Svindal.


The course was set by Norway coach Tron Moger, who also placed the gates when Svindal won the super-G in Val Gardena, Italy, in December.


"It was tough," Svindal said. "I took a lot of risks and had a small mistake at the end. The conditions were OK, but not ideal. With this (low) light, you don't see the bumps. I am satisfied. Ted did just great. He would have had a great run with number 22 as well."


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Niners have better chance than Ravens to be back


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens carried off the Lombardi Trophy. Their beaten opponent has a better chance of doing it next season.


San Francisco running back Frank Gore insisted the 49ers were the more talented team even after losing 34-31 to the Ravens in Sunday's Super Bowl. The scoreboard said otherwise, but when the conference champions meet at the Meadowlands next February — yes, outdoors in the dead of winter for the NFL crown — the Niners easily could represent the NFC.


Again.


"I'd say we've got a great group of guys in the locker room, great warriors," Gore said, "and I'm not going to promise anything next year, but we're going to fight to get back here."


The toughest fight might be in their own division with Seattle and rapidly improving St. Louis. The Seahawks were the only team to allow fewer points than the 49ers, and their rivalry — including the semi-feud between coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll — adds spice to the NFC West.


But the 49ers have to be the NFC favorite after losing in overtime to the Giants for the conference title last year, then barely falling to the Ravens on Sunday night.


"This is kind of tough, to get this far and let everything slip away through your hands," said Ahmad Brooks, part of the best linebacking corps in the league, along with All-Pros Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman. "The funny thing about it is, within the next few months, we're going to start trying to get back to the same place that we're at right now."


As will the Ravens, but their challenge is more imposing.


Unlike the 49ers, who figure to lose virtually no important parts — receiver Randy Moss, perhaps, but he was a marginal player in 2012 — the Ravens have bid adieu to their greatest player, linebacker Ray Lewis. Not only will they miss his performances on the field and his presence in the locker room, but he was the emotional engine in Baltimore.


The leadership burden will fall on two players whose contracts have expired but likely will be back with the Ravens: Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco and veteran safety Ed Reed.


Flacco almost certainly will get the franchise tag at more than $14 million if he can't agree to a long-term deal. But in the current NFL, winning without a top-level QB is impossible, and there can be no arguing now about Flacco belonging in that class.


Reed wants to return and the Ravens recognize how unwise it would be to let both Lewis and Reed leave at the same time — even after winning their second Super Bowl in 12 seasons.


"I always said when I came into the league and got drafted that I didn't want to be one of those guys jumping from team to team," Reed said during Super Bowl week.


Regardless, the Ravens will be a force — odds makers have placed them behind New England and Denver in the AFC next season — and one of the NFL's most prolific offensive teams.


Flacco throwing to the superb trio of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta, plus the versatility of running back Ray Rice and a stud backup in Bernard Pierce says so. Flacco's protection from the line and All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach was impeccable in the postseason, helping Flacco throw for a record-tying 11 TDs with no interceptions.


The defense, oddly enough considering Baltimore's reputation, needs some work. But linebacker Terrell Suggs will be even healthier — he came back quickly from a torn Achilles tendon — and top cornerback Lardarius Webb returns from a knee injury.


Just like the 49ers, the Ravens have a tough task in their division. Cincinnati is young, but has made the playoffs the last two years. Pittsburgh never remains dormant for long.


Should these two clubs make it to the first outdoor Super Bowl at a cold-weather site, would Baltimore have the edge because it's used to such conditions? And because it's a three-hour drive from MetLife Stadium, will Ravens fans be out in force even more than they were in the Big Easy?


Or would the 49ers' immense talent base be overwhelming?


Food for thought over the next 11 months.


"We've got to look at this as a blessing because we didn't have to be here, but we made it," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We've always got next year; we've got next season. We might as well look forward to next season, keep our hopes high and continue to climb."


___


Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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Ravens edge 49ers 34-31 in electric Super Bowl


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For a Super Bowl with so many story lines, this game came up with quite a twist.


Try a blackout that turned a blowout into a shootout — capped by a brilliant defensive stand.


The Baltimore Ravens survived a frenzied comeback by the San Francisco 49ers following a 34-minute delay in the third quarter for a power outage Sunday night, winning their second championship 34-31. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco threw three first-half touchdown passes, Jacoby Jones ran back the second-half kickoff a record 108 yards for a score, and star linebacker Ray Lewis' last play fittingly was part of a defensive effort that saved the victory.


"To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I've ever been a part of in my career," said Lewis, who announced a month ago he would retire when the Ravens were done playing.


They are done now, with another Vince Lombardi Trophy headed for the display case.


"What better way to do it," Lewis said, "than on the Super Bowl stage?"


That stage already was loaded with plots:


—The coaching Harbaughs sibling rivalry, won by older brother John, who said the postgame greeting with Jim was "painful."


—Flacco's emergence as a top-level quarterback, and his impending free agency.


—Colin Kaepernick's rapid rise in the last two months as 49ers QB.


—The big game's return to the Big Easy for the first time in 11 years, and the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005.


—Lewis' self-proclaimed "last ride."


But when the Superdome lost power, well, that wasn't in anyone's scenario.


Flacco and the Ravens (14-6) were turning the game into a rout, leading 28-6 when, without even a flicker of warning, several banks of lights and the scoreboards went dark. Players from both sides stretched and chatted with each other in as bizarre a scene as any Super Bowl has witnessed.


"The bad part was we started talking about it," said safety Ed Reed, who had the game's only interception. "That was mentioned. It was like they were trying to kill our momentum."


After power was restored, the 49ers began playing lights out.


San Francisco (13-5-1), in search of its sixth Lombardi Trophy in as many tries, got back in the game almost immediately.


Michael Crabtree's 31-yard touchdown reception, on which he broke two tackles, made it 28-13. A few minutes later, Frank Gore's 6-yard run followed a 32-yard punt return by Ted Ginn Jr., and the 49ers were within eight.


Ray Rice's fumble at his 24 led to David Akers' 34-yard field goal, but Baltimore woke up for a long drive leading to rookie Justin Tucker's 19-yard field goal.


San Francisco wasn't done challenging, though, and Kaepernick's 15-yard TD run, the longest for a quarterback in a Super Bowl, made it 31-29. A 2-point conversion pass failed when the Ravens blitzed.


Tucker added a 38-yarder with 4:19 remaining, setting up the frantic finish.


Kaepernick couldn't get the 49ers into the end zone on the final three plays. The last was a pass into the right corner of the end zone to Crabtree that involved some incidental bumping. Jim Harbaugh insisted a flag should have been thrown.


"There's no question in my mind that there was a pass interference and then a hold," Jim Harbaugh said.


Ravens punter Sam Koch took a safety for the final score with 4 seconds left. Koch's free kick was returned by Ginn to midfield as time ran out.


"How could it be any other way? It's never pretty. It's never perfect. But it's us," John Harbaugh said of his Ravens. "It was us today."


Barely.


"Yeah, I think that last drive when we got the ball and had time to go down and score a touchdown," Kaepernick said, "we thought it was our game."


But the championship is Baltimore's.


As for the foul-up at America's biggest sporting event, officials revealed that an "abnormality" in the power system triggered an automatic shutdown, forcing backup systems to kick in. But no one was sure what caused the initial problem.


Everything changed after that until Lewis and Co. shut it down. But there were plenty of white-knuckle moments and the Ravens had to make four stops inside their 7 at the end.


"I think it speaks to our resolve, speaks to our determination, speaks to our mental toughness," John Harbaugh said. "That is what wins and loses games."


At 4 hours, 14 minutes, it was the longest Super Bowl ever.


Flacco's arrival as a championship quarterback — he had 11 postseason TD passes, tying a league mark, and no interceptions — coincides with Lewis' retirement. The win capped a sensational four games since Lewis announced he was leaving the game after 17 Hall of Fame-caliber years.


The Ravens will become Flacco's team now, provided he reaches agreement on a new contract.


Flacco's three TD passes in the opening half tied a Super Bowl record. They covered 13 yards to Anquan Boldin, 1 to Dennis Pitta and 56 to Jones.


That start boosted him to the MVP award.


"They have to give it to one guy and I'm not going to complain that I got it," Flacco said.


John Harbaugh had no complaints about getting that other trophy named after that Green Bay coach. But he struggled to balance it with the disappointment his brother was feeling.


"The meeting with Jim in the middle (of the field for the postgame handshake) was probably the most difficult thing I have ever been associated with in my life," the Ravens coach said.


The wild scoring made this the second championship in the NFL's 80-year title game history in which both teams scored at least 30 points. Pittsburgh's 35-31 win over Dallas in 1979 was the other.


The Ravens stumbled into the playoffs with four defeats in its last five regular-season games as Lewis recovered from a torn right triceps and Flacco struggled. Harbaugh even fired his offensive coordinator in December, a stunning move with the postseason so close.


But that — and every other move Harbaugh, Flacco and the Ravens made since — were right on target.


New Orleans native Jones, one of the stars in a double-overtime playoff win at Denver, seemed to put the game away with his record 108-yard sprint with the second-half kickoff.


Soon after, the lights went out — and when they came back on, the Ravens were almost powerless to slow the 49ers.


Until the final moments.


"The final series of Ray Lewis' career was a goal-line stand," Harbaugh said.


Lewis was sprawled on all fours, face-down on the turf, after the end zone incompletion.


"It's no greater way, as a champ, to go out on your last ride with the men that I went out with, with my teammates," Lewis said. "And you looked around this stadium and Baltimore! Baltimore! We coming home, baby! We did it!"


Jim Harbaugh, the coach who turned around the Niners in the last two years and brought them to their first Super Bowl in 18 years, had seen his team make a similarly stunning comeback in the NFC championship at Atlanta, but couldn't finish it off against Baltimore.


"Our guys battled back to get back in," the 49ers coach said. "I thought we battled right to the brink of winning."


The 49ers couldn't have been sloppier in the first half, damaging their chances with penalties — including one on their first play that negated a 20-yard gain — poor tackling and turnovers. Rookie LaMichael James fumbled at the Baltimore 25 to ruin an impressive drive, and the Ravens converted that with Flacco's 1-yard pass to Pitta for a 14-3 lead.


On San Francisco's next offensive play, Kaepernick threw behind Randy Moss and always dependable Reed picked it off. A huge scuffle followed that brought both Harbaughs onto the field and saw both sides penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.


Reed, also a New Orleans native, tied the NFL record for postseason picks with his ninth.


Baltimore didn't pounce on that mistake for points. Instead, Tucker's fake field goal run on fourth-and-9 came up a yard short when Chris Culliver slammed him out of bounds.


The Ravens simply shrugged, forced a three-and-out, and then unleashed Jones deep. Just as he did to Denver, he flashed past the secondary and caught Flacco's fling. He had to wait for the ball, fell to the ground to grab it, but was untouched by a Niner. Up he sprang, cutting left and using his speed to outrun two defenders to the end zone.


Desperate for some points, the 49ers completed four passes and got a 15-yard roughing penalty against Haloti Ngata, who later left with a knee injury. But again they couldn't cross the goal line, Paul Kruger got his second sack of the half on third down, forcing a second field goal by Akers, from 27 yards.


When Jones began the second half by sprinting up the middle virtually untouched — he is the second player with two TDs of 50 yards or more in a Super Bowl, tying Washington's Ricky Sanders in 1988 — the rout was on.


Then it wasn't.


"Everybody had their hand on this game," 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis said. "We point the fingers at nobody. We win together and we lose together, and today we lost it."


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Super Bowl of firsts, lasts, bests


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The journey to this Super Bowl wound through bounties and replacement refs, eventually bringing the big game back to the Big Easy — with a replacement quarterback, a sibling rivalry and a grand exit for one of the NFL's greatest players, clouded by the obscure healing powers of deer-antler spray.


It is a Super Bowl of comebacks, of firsts and lasts, and — if San Francisco wins — the best.


A win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday gives the 49ers six championships, matching Pittsburgh's titles in the Super Bowl era. Unlike the Steelers, the Niners have never lost one.


Of course, they haven't won one in 18 years, either.


"There's a tradition with the San Francisco 49ers, but I think these guys are paving their own way," said Hall of Fame receiver and three-time champion Jerry Rice. "They're playing with a lot of swagger."


Or as owner Denise DeBartolo York said, "We've come full circle and the dynasty will prevail."


New Orleans has come full circle, too. Ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, losing a quarter of its population, abandoned by the Saints for an entire season, the city couldn't imagine hosting another Super Bowl. But as New Orleans recovered and rebuilt, it envisioned staging what Patriots owner Robert Kraft calls "the pre-eminent sporting event."


The NFL agreed it was time to return. And even if Commissioner Roger Goodell is despised here after slapping the Saints with suspensions and fines in the bounty scandal, the vibes from the French Quarter and Warehouse District this week have been supportive, even uplifting.


"It's also terrific for us to be back here in New Orleans," Goodell said, joking about voodoo dolls in his likeness. "Our 10th Super Bowl here, the first since Katrina, and it's clear this city is back bigger and better than ever."


There's the tale of the head coaching brothers, Baltimore's John and San Francisco's Jim, the first siblings to face off in a Super Bowl. And Ray Lewis, the pre-eminent linebacker of his generation on his self-proclaimed last ride. (His farewell party was somewhat sidetracked for two days this week when Lewis waved off a report that he tried to get unusual products like deer-antler spray to speed his recovery from an arm injury that sidelined him for 10 games.)


"There are so many storylines to this game that make it bigger than just the Super Bowl," 49ers CEO Jed York said.


Such as the Harbaughs plot about sons of a lifetime coach who took different paths to the top of the NFL.


John, older by 15 months, has made his career standing on the sideline with a headset. He's the only head coach to win playoff games in his first five seasons; his quarterback, Joe Flacco, has the same distinction as he heads into his first Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh was a first-round draft pick and quarterbacked four teams in 14 pro seasons before going into coaching. He was an immediate success at San Diego — the Toreros in the college Pioneer League, not the Chargers in the NFL — and Stanford before the 49ers won a bidding war for him in 2011.


This week's family reunion has been light-hearted, though that figures to change Sunday.


"It's probably a little tougher emotionally," John Harbaugh said of facing his brother. "It's a little tougher just from the sense of I don't think you think about it when you're coaching against somebody else; it's more about the scheme and the strategy. There's a little bit of a relationship element that's more strong than maybe coaching against someone else.


"I'll have a better answer for you after the game. I've never been through this before. This is all new."


And oh-so-new for the QBs, Flacco and Colin Kaepernick.


Flacco is no fluke, holding the career record for road playoff wins with six. But until outplaying Peyton Manning and Tom Brady this year, he hadn't gotten the Ravens to the Super Bowl. He has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in the postseason, padding a resume that soon will make him one very highly paid quarterback: Flacco's contract expires after this game. Even with a franchise tag applied by Baltimore (13-6), he'll make about $14.6 million next season.


"I think when you talk about winning as quarterbacks in the playoffs," Flacco said, "I would think that all of them have Super Bowl victories. So that's really the only one that matters, and that's what we're trying to get."


Naturally, so are the 49ers (13-4-1), whose midseason adoption of the pistol offense to best use Kaepernick's dynamic versatility added a dimension no one has been able to stop. The Niners might never have taken such a huge step had incumbent Alex Smith, in the midst of his best season, not sustained a concussion on Nov. 11. Kaepernick took over and the offense took off.


Once Smith was healthy, he no longer was the starter. Jim Harbaugh gambled by sticking with the raw second-year quarterback who brought more game-breaking skills to the position.


Difficult decisions like that are sometimes foolhardy, sometimes inspired.


This one worked superbly, and Kaepernick stands one victory from joining Joe Montana and Steve Young as a 49er Super Bowl champion.


"It was tough watching this team do well and not being able to contribute," said Kaepernick, more recognized before his promotion for his collection of tattoos than for his strong arm and sprinter's speed. "For me, what kept me going was the fact that I might get an opportunity to get out there. When I did, I needed to take advantage of it."


The 49ers hope to take advantage in the same Superdome where they were at their most dominant, beating Denver 55-10 in 1990 in the biggest rout the Super Bowl has seen.


The Steelers are recognized as the true powerhouse of the Super Bowl era, which is nearly a half-century old. Four of those titles came in the 1970s, with Mean Joe Greene and the Steel Curtain shutting down opponents while Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann were scoring on them.


But the last two were in 2005 and 2008, and they've been perennial playoff qualifiers, too. That kept them in the football forefront.


For the 49ers the golden years of Montana, Rice, Young and Ronnie Lott ended with the 1994 season. They didn't even make the playoffs from 2003-10, and this is their first trip back to the Super Bowl.


Rice sees Super Bowl win No. 6 coming Sunday.


"I just think we had players who played well in the big game," he said. "My best football that I played, I think, happened in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. I think it's the same with these players."


None of whom, except for center Jonathan Goodwin and linebacker Clark Haggans, has won a title. That's still one more ring than the Ravens have: Lewis is the sole NFL champion in Baltimore.


Lewis hungers for these teammates to taste their first title — and to do it in his last game.


"I've touched the Lombardi (Trophy), and I know how it feels," the perennial All-Pro said. "For these guys who've made this journey with me to feel that, it would be the perfect ending for my career."


Like Lewis, 49ers receiver Randy Moss also could be suiting up for the final time, although he hopes to play another year.


Grabbed off the scrap heap after his career spiraled into oblivion and no team would touch him in 2011, Moss didn't do much on the field (28 catches, 434 yards) this season. His loudest headlines came this week when he proclaimed himself the greatest receiver ever; maybe he's never seen Rice's numbers.


Teammates say Moss was very influential as a mentor and teacher.


"Randy's like my older brother," said Michael Crabtree, who emerged as a top receiver in his fourth pro season. "An older brother you would have that's been through a lot that you just can learn from just talking to him, watching him.


"He's a legend and I hope he'll be here next year."


Lewis won't be. He'll don the face paint, put on his No. 52 for the final time, and see if he can replicate the championship of a dozen years ago.


"You can never top the first one, because that's an unknown feeling," Lewis said before adding with a chuckle, eyes widening, "but a second one — that might be the only way you really can top it."


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NFL's Goodell aims to share blame on player safety


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to share the blame.


"Safety," he said at his annual Super Bowl news conference, "is all of our responsibilities."


Not surprisingly, given that thousands of former players are suing the league about its handling of concussions, the topics of player health and improved safety dominated Goodell's 45-minute session Friday. And he often sounded like someone seeking to point out that players or others are at fault for some of the sport's problems — and need to help fix them.


"I'll stand up. I'll be accountable. It's part of my responsibility. I'll do everything," Goodell said. "But the players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it."


Injuries from hits to the head or to the knees, Goodell noted, can result from improper tackling techniques used by players and taught by coaches. The NFL Players Association needs to allow testing for human growth hormone to go forward so it can finally start next season, which Goodell hopes will happen. He said prices for Super Bowl tickets have soared in part because fans re-sell them above face value.


And asked what he most rues about the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation — a particularly sensitive issue around these parts, of course — Goodell replied: "My biggest regret is that we aren't all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get (bounties) out of the game, to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That's what I regret, that I wasn't able to make that point clearly enough with the union."


He addressed other subjects, such as a "new generation of the Rooney Rule" after none of 15 recently open coach or general manager jobs went to a minority candidate, meaning "we didn't have the outcomes we wanted"; using next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey as a test for future cold-weather, outdoor championship games; and saying he welcomed President Barack Obama's recent comments expressing concern about football's violence because "we want to make sure that people understand what we're doing to make our game safer."


Also:


— New Orleans will not get back the second-round draft pick Goodell stripped in his bounty ruling;


— Goodell would not give a time frame for when the NFL could hold a game in Mexico;


— next season's games in London — 49ers-Jaguars and Steelers-Vikings — are sellouts.


Goodell mentioned some upcoming changes, including the plan to add independent neurologists to sidelines to help with concussion care during games — something players have asked for and the league opposed until now.


"The No. 1 issue is: Take the head out of the game," Goodell said. "I think we've seen in the last several decades that players are using their head more than they had when you go back several decades."


He said one tool the league can use to cut down on helmet-to-helmet hits is suspending players who keep doing it.


"We're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders," Goodell said. "We're going to have to take them off the field. Suspension gets through to them."


The league will add "expanded physicals at the end of each season ... to review players from a physical, mental and life skills standpoint so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion," Goodell said.


With question after question about less-than-light matters, one reporter drew a chuckle from Goodell by asking how he's been treated this week in a city filled with supporters of the Saints who are angry about the way the club was punished for the bounty system the NFL said existed from 2009-11.


"My picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll," Goodell said.


But he added that he can "appreciate the passion" of the fans and, actually, "couldn't feel more welcome here."


___


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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Carville, Matalin enjoy role as Big Easy boosters


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When Mary Matalin heard a baby cry during a Super Bowl news conference this week, she paused midsentence, peered in the direction of the fussing child and asked: "Is that my husband?"


Matalin, the noted Republican political pundit, isn't shy about making jokes at the expense of Democratic strategist James Carville, who went from being her professional counterpart to her partner in life when they were married — in New Orleans — two decades ago.


This week, though, and for much of the past few years, the famous political odd couple have been working in lockstep for a bipartisan cause — the resurgence of their adopted hometown.


Their passion for the Big Easy and its recovery from Hurricane Katrina was why Carville and Matalin were appointed co-chairs of New Orleans' Super Bowl host committee, positions that made them the face of the city's effort to prove it's ready to be back in the regular rotation for the NFL's biggest game.


"Their commitment to New Orleans and their rise to prominence here locally as citizens made them a natural choice," said Jay Cicero, president of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, which handles the city's Super Bowl bids. "It's about promoting New Orleans, and their being in love with this city, they're the perfect co-chairs."


Carville, a Louisiana native, and Matalin moved from Washington, D.C., to historic "Uptown" New Orleans in the summer of 2008, a little less than three years after Katrina had laid waste to vast swaths of the city. There was not only heavy wind damage but flooding that surged through crumbling levees and at one point submerged about 80 percent of the city.


The couple had long loved New Orleans, and felt even more of a pull to set down roots here, with their two school-age daughters, at a time when the community was in need.


"The storm just weighed heavy," Carville said. "We were thinking about it. We'd been in Washington for a long time. The more that we thought about it, the more sense that it made. We just came down here (to look for a house) in late 2007 and said we're just going to do this and never looked back."


Matalin said she and Carville also wanted to raise their daughters in a place where people were willing to struggle to preserve a vibrant and unique culture.


"It's authentically creative, organically eccentric, bounded by beauty of all kinds," she said. "People pull for each other, people pull together. ... Seven years ago we were 15 feet under water. ... This is unparalleled what the people here did and that's what you want your kids to grow up with: Hope and a sense of place, resolve and perseverance."


Carville has been an avid sports fan all his life, and Matalin jokes that he now schedules his life around Saints and LSU football.


An LSU graduate, Carville has been a regular sight in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, often wearing a purple and gold rugby-style shirt.


In New Orleans, he and Matalin have lent their names not just to the Super Bowl host committee, but to efforts to prevent the NBA's Hornets from leaving when the ownership situation was in flux.


"I was scared to death they would leave the city," said Carville of the Hornets, who were purchased by the NBA in December of 2010 when club founder George Shinn wanted to sell and struggled to find a local buyer. "We were starting to do better (as a community). It would have been a terrible story to lose an NBA franchise at that time."


Saints owner Tom Benson has since bought the NBA club and signed a long-term lease at New Orleans Arena, ending speculation about a possible move.


Carville and Matalin also have taken part in a range of environmental, educational, economic and cultural projects in the area. Matalin is on the board of the Water Institute of the Gulf, which aims to preserve fragile coastal wetlands that have been eroding, leaving south Louisiana ecosystems and communities increasingly vulnerable to destruction. They have supported the Institute of Politics at Loyola University and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.


Carville teaches a current events class at Tulane University and he looks forward to getting involved in the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in 2015 and New Orleans' tercentennial celebrations in 2018, when the city also hopes to host its next Super Bowl, if the NFL sees fit.


Leading a Super Bowl host committee, the couple said, has similarities to running a major national political campaign, but takes even more work.


"This has been going on for three years and it's huge," Matalin said. "It's bigger, it's harder, it's more complex — even though it's cheaper."


The host committee spent about $13 million in private and public funds to put on this Super Bowl, and the payoff could be enormous in terms of providing a momentum boost to the metro area's growth, Carville said.


"For us — New Orleans — I think this is going to be much more than a football game Sunday," Carville said of the championship matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. "We'll know how we feel about it on Monday. It's a big event, it helps a lot of people, but I think we have a chance if it goes the way we hope it does, it'll go beyond economic impact. It'll go beyond who won the game. I think there's something significant that's coming to a point here in the city."


So there's a bit of anxiety involved, to go along with the long hours. But Carville and Matalin say they've loved having a role in what they see as New Orleans' renaissance.


"I always say I'm so humbled by everyone's gratitude," Matalin said. "We get up every day and say, 'Thank you, God. Thank you, God.' It's a blessing for us to be able to be here, to live here."


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2 NFL seasons since agreement, still no HGH tests


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Count Baltimore Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones among those NFL players who want the league and the union to finally agree on a way to do blood testing for human growth hormone.


"I hope guys wouldn't be cheating. That's why you do all this extra work and extra training. Unfortunately, there are probably a few guys, a handful maybe, that are on it. It's unfortunate. It takes away from the sport," Jones said.


"It would be fair to do blood testing," Jones added. "Hopefully they figure it out."


When Jones and the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl on Sunday, two complete seasons will have come and gone without a single HGH test being administered, even though the league and the NFL Players Association paved the way for it in the 10-year collective bargaining agreement they signed in August 2011.


Since then, the sides have haggled over various elements, primarily the union's insistence that it needs more information about the validity of a test that is used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball. HGH is a banned performance-enhancing drug that is hard to detect and has been linked to health problems such as diabetes, cardiac dysfunction and arthritis.


"If there are guys using (HGH), there definitely needs to be action taken against it, and it needs to be out of (the sport)," Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "I'm pretty sure it'll happen eventually."


At least two members of Congress want to make it happen sooner, rather than later.


House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith this week to chastise the union for standing in the way of HGH testing and to warn that they might ask players to testify on Capitol Hill.


Smith is scheduled to hold his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference Thursday.


"We have cooperated and been helpful to the committee on all of their requests," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "If this is something they feel strongly about, we will be happy to help them facilitate it."


Several players from the Super Bowl teams said they would be willing to talk to Congress about the issue, if asked.


"I have nothing to hide. I can't speak for anyone else in football, but I would have no problem going," said Kenny Wiggins, a 6-foot-6, 314-pound offensive lineman on San Francisco's practice squad.


But Wiggins added: "There's a lot more problems in the U.S. they should be worried about than HGH in the NFL."


That sentiment was echoed by former New York Giants offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara, who now works for the NFL Network.


"Do I think there is an HGH problem in the NFL? I don't think there is. Are there guys who are using it? I'm sure there are. But is it something Congress needs to worry about? No. We have enough educated people on both sides that can fully handle this. And if they can't, then they should be fired," said O'Hara, an NFLPA representative as a player. "I include the union in that, and I include the NFL. There is no reason we would need someone to help us facilitate this process."


Issa and Cummings apparently disagree.


In December, their committee held a hearing at which medical experts testified that the current HGH test is reliable and that the union's request for a new study is unnecessary. Neither the league nor union was invited to participate in that hearing; at the time, Issa and Cummings said they expected additional hearings.


"We are disappointed with the NFLPA's remarkable recalcitrance, which has prevented meaningful progress on this issue," they wrote in their recent letter to Smith. "We intend to take a more active role to determine whether the position you have taken — that HGH is not a serious concern and that the test for HGH is unreliable — is consistent with the beliefs of rank and file NFL players."


Atallah questioned that premise.


"To us, there is no distinction between players and the union. ... The reason we had HGH in our CBA is precisely because our players wanted us to start testing for it," Atallah said. "We are not being recalcitrant for recalcitrance sake. We are merely following the direction of our player leadership."


Wiggins and other players said no one can know for sure how much HGH use there is in the league until there is testing — but that it's important for the union's concerns about the test to be answered.


"The union decides what is best for the players," said Ravens nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who said he would be willing to go to Capitol Hill.


"I feel like some guys are on HGH," said 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis, who would rather not speak to Congress. "I personally don't care if there is testing. It's something they have to live with, knowing they cheated, and if they get (outplayed) while they're on it, it's a hit on their pride."


___


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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A-Rod implicated in PED use again as MLB probes


NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez is in the middle of Major League Baseball's latest doping investigation after an alternative weekly newspaper reported baseball's highest-paid star was among the big leaguers listed in the records of a Florida clinic the paper said sold performance-enhancing drugs.


The Miami New Times said Tuesday that the three-time AL MVP bought human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing substances during 2009-12 from Biogenesis of America LLC, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., near Rodriguez's offseason home.


The new public relations firm for the New York Yankees third baseman issued a statement denying the allegations.


New Times said it obtained records detailing purchases by Rodriguez, 2012 All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera, 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon and 2011 AL championship series MVP Nelson Cruz of Texas.


Cabrera left San Francisco after the season to sign with Toronto, while Oakland re-signed Colon.


Other baseball players the newspaper said appeared in the records include Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who finished third in last year's NL Cy Young Award voting, and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal.


Biogenesis, which the New Times said was run by Anthony Bosch, was located in a beige, nondescript office park. The former clinic is no longer listed as a business in its directory,


"There was a flier put out by the building management a couple weeks ago. It was put on all the doors and windows of all the offices," said Brad Nickel, who works in a cruise planning company on the floor above where the clinic was located. "It just said this guy's not really a doctor, he doesn't belong here, he's no longer allowed here, call the police or the building management if you see him."


The New Times posted copies of what it said were Bosch's handwritten records, obtained through a former Biogenesis employee it did not identify.


Bosch's lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, said in a statement the New Times report "is filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements of fact."


"Mr. Bosch vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated by or associated with him," she said.


Rodriguez appears 16 times in the documents New Times received, the paper said, either as "Alex Rodriguez," ''Alex Rod" or the nickname "Cacique," a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief.


Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs from 2001-03. Cabrera, Colon and Grandal were suspended for 50 games each last year by MLB following tests for elevated testosterone. Responding to the testosterone use, MLB and the players' union said Jan. 10 they were authorizing the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory outside Montreal to store each major leaguer's baseline testosterone/epitestosterone (T/E) ratio in order to detect abnormalities.


"We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances," MLB said in a statement. "Only law enforcement officials have the capacity to reach those outside the game who are involved in the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. ... We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information."


A baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Monday that MLB did not have any documentation regarding the allegations. If MLB does obtain evidence, the players could be subject to discipline. First offenses result in a 50-game suspension and second infractions in 100-game penalties. A third violation results in a lifetime ban.


Rodriguez is sidelined for at least the first half of the season after hip surgery Jan. 16. A 50-game suspension would cost him $7.65 million of his $28 million salary.


"The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true," Rodriguez said in a statement issued by a publicist. "He was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story — at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez — are not legitimate."


Jay Reisinger, a lawyer who has represented Rodriguez in recent years, said the three-time AL MVP had retained Roy Black, an attorney from Rodriguez's hometown of Miami. Black's clients have included Rush Limbaugh and William Kennedy Smith.


Bosch did not return a phone message seeking comment.


MLB hopes to gain the cooperation of Bosch and others connected with the clinic, another baseball official said, also on condition of anonymity because no public statements on the matter were authorized. In order to successfully discipline players based on the records, witnesses would be needed to authenticate them, the official said.


Players could be asked to appear before MLB for interviews, but the official said MLB would be reluctant to request interviews before it has more evidence.


Rodriguez spent years denying he used PEDs before Sports Illustrated reported in February 2009 that he tested positive for two steroids in MLB's anonymous survey while with the Texas Rangers in 2003. Two days later, he admitted in an ESPN interview that he used PEDs over a three-year period. He has denied using PEDs after 2003.


If the new allegations were true, the Yankees would face high hurdles to get out of the final five years and $114 million of Rodriguez's record $275 million, 10-year contract. Because management and the players' union have a joint drug agreement, an arbitrator could determine that any action taken by the team amounted to multiple punishments for the same offense.


But if Rodriguez were to end his career because of the injury, about 85 percent of the money owed by the Yankees would be covered by insurance, one of the baseball officials said.


Gonzalez, 21-8 for the Washington Nationals last season, posted on his Twitter feed: "I've never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will, I've never met or spoken with tony Bosch or used any substance provided by him. anything said to the contrary is a lie."


Colon was not issuing a statement, agent Adam Katz said through spokeswoman Lisa Cohen.


"We are aware of certain allegations and inferences," Cruz's law firm, Farrell & Reisinger, said in a statement. "To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied."


Cruz and Gonzalez had not previously been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz hit 24 home runs last year for the Rangers.


The New Times report said it obtained notes by Bosch listing the players' names and the substances they received. Several unidentified employees and clients confirmed to the publication that the clinic distributed the substances, the paper said. The employees said that Bosch bragged of supplying drugs to professional athletes but that they never saw the sports stars in the office.


The paper said the records list that Rodriguez paid for HGH; testosterone cream; IGF-1, a substance banned by baseball that stimulates insulin production; and GHRP, which releases growth hormones.


___


Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Coral Gables, Fla., and Curt Anderson in Miami, and AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.


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Woods makes short work at Torrey Pines


SAN DIEGO (AP) — Tiger Woods never looked so irritated winning a golf tournament so comfortably.


His record eighth victory at Torrey Pines was all but over when Woods ripped a 5-iron from 244 yards over the corner of a bunker and onto the green at the par-5 13th hole, setting up a two-putt birdie that gave him an eight shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open.


At least he had plenty of time to savor this victory. The final five holes felt like they took forever.


Woods twirled his club on the tee and leaned on it in the fairway as the final round dragged on. He lost rhythm and appeared to lose interest, and it showed. A bogey from the bunker on the 14th. A tee shot that caromed off a eucalyptus tree on the 15th hole that led to double bogey. A tee shot he popped up on the 17th hole that left him 50 yards behind the other players and led to another bogey.


"It got a little ugly at the end," Woods said. "I started losing patience a little bit with the slow play."


No matter. It only affected the margin, not the outcome. Woods had to settle for an even-par 72 that gave him a four-shot win over defending champion Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater, who each had a 69.


For a tour that has been criticized for slow play, this wasn't an ideal start to the network portion of its schedule. With Woods virtually a lock to win, CBS Sports wanted the final round to resume Monday later than normal so that it could be televised in late afternoon on the East Coast. Play was so slow that CBS went over its allotted time.


Woods, meanwhile, had the ideal start to his tour season.


Only a week earlier, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, in part because of a two-shot penalty assessed after his second round for taking an illegal drop. Woods had never missed the cut on the European Tour, and he had never started his season with the weekend off.


He might have been the only one who didn't panic.


Woods seized control with a 65 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, the spent the rest of the week pulling away from the field until no one could catch him.


"I don't know if anybody would have beaten him this week," said Nick Watney, who got within five shots of Woods when the tournament was still undecided until making three bogeys on his next five holes. "He's definitely on his game."


It's still too early to figure out the state of his game, especially in relation to Rory McIlroy, who also missed the cut in Abu Dhabi.


Torrey Pines is a public course that Woods treats like his private domain. He won the tournament for the seventh time, one short of the PGA Tour record for most wins in a single event. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times. Woods won for the eighth time at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, and that's a PGA Tour record that Woods previously shared with ... himself. He also has won seven times at Firestone and Bay Hill.


"I think he wanted to send a message," said Hunter Mahan, who shares a swing coach with Woods. "I think deep down he did. You play some games to try to motivate yourself. There's been so much talk about Rory. Rory is now with Nike. That would be my guess."


And it was his 75th win on the PGA Tour, seven short of the record held by Snead. Woods has won 23 of those tournaments by at least four shots.


"I'm excited the way I played all week," Woods said. "I hit the ball well — pretty much did everything well and built myself a nice little cushion. I had some mistakes at the end, but all my good play before that allowed me to afford those mistakes."


Woods mostly had reason to be excited about his short game.


In the third round Sunday, he was furious with himself for going long on the par-3 eighth green, without much green between his ball and the hole. Woods hit a chip solidly, with just enough loft, to leave himself a tap-in par. In the conclusion of the final round Monday, he pulled his tee shot into a bad spot in the bunker on the par-3 11th. The lie was good, but he had to aim well left, meaning his legs were spread wide on the slope of the sand.


He blasted it out with his 60-degree wedge to a top shelf, and then watched it feed down a slope to the right. It lost pace at the end or it might have gone in.


It looked good for television. It was a difficult shot, but not impossible.


But Woods believes those are the shots he wasn't converting a year ago. And that's one reason his outlook was so bright on the rest of the year, even after having to cope with so much fog along the Pacific bluffs.


He played the par 5s in 12 under for the lead — that alone would have been enough to win — and attributed that to his short game.


"My short game was back to how I know it can be," Woods said. "My shots that I hit, especially out of these nasty little lies, I hit some really good ones this week. And that allowed me to save some pars, make some birdies, and move my way up the board. And basically, that's what I did."


Woods figures his swing change under Sean Foley took root at some point last year, but that he had devoted so much time to the swing that he neglected his wedges. Now that he is practicing more on his short game, he expects better results — turning a 74 into a 70, and not losing leads at the majors, like he did twice last year.


Still, the season is young.


Any measure of Woods likely will have to wait until the road to the Masters gets going during the Florida Swing. Woods headed home to Florida on Monday night and is not expected to return until the Match Play Championship in Arizona a month from now. McIlroy also isn't expected to play until then, and match play being such a fickle format, the better gauge could come in the Honda Classic and at Doral.


Woods, however, likes where he is headed.


Torrey Pines is a good omen for the rest of his year. Whenever he starts a PGA Tour season with a win at Torrey, he tends to have big years — eight wins and two majors in 2006, seven wins and a major in 2007, four wins in only six starts in 2008.


Where will this lead?


"Does it feel good? Yes. Does it give me confidence? Absolutely," Woods said. "But as far as the other stuff, as I said, I'm excited about this year. I'm excited about what I'm doing with Sean and some of the things that I've built. This is a nice way to start the year."


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Tiger headed toward another win at Torrey


SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Pacific air was so cold at the end of a 10-hour day at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods thrust both hands in the front pockets of his rain pants as he walked off the course at the Farmers Insurance Open.


It was a fitting image. Woods made a marathon day look like he was out for a stroll.


Staked to a two-shot lead going into the third round of this fog-delayed tournament, Woods drove the ball where he was aiming and was hardly ever out of position. Even with a bogey on the final hole — the easiest on the back nine — Woods still had a 3-under 69 and expanded his lead by two shots.


In the seven holes he played in the fourth round later Sunday afternoon, Woods hit the ball all over the course and still made three birdies to add two more strokes to his lead.


Thanks to the fog that wiped out an entire day of golf on Saturday, the Farmers Insurance Open didn't stand a chance of finishing on Sunday.


Woods just made it look like it was over.


He had a six-shot lead with 11 holes to play going into the conclusion of the final round on Monday. The two guys chasing him were Brandt Snedeker, the defending champion, and Nick Watney, who won at Torrey Pines in 2008. Neither was waving a white flag. Both understood how much the odds were stacked against them.


"I've got a guy at the top of the leaderboard that doesn't like giving up leads," Snedeker said. "So I have to go catch him."


"All we can do tomorrow is go out and try to make him think about it a little bit and see what happens," Watney said.


And then there was Erik Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient who had a birdie-eagle finish in the third round that put him in third place through 54 holes, still five shots behind Woods. Someone asked Compton about trying to chase Woods. He laughed.


"I'm trying to chase myself," he said.


Woods was at 17-under par for the tournament, and more than just a six-shot lead was in his corner.


He finished the third round at 14-under 202, making it the 16th time on the PGA Tour that he had at least a four-shot lead going into the final round. His record on the PGA Tour with the outright lead after 54 holes is 38-2, the exceptions being Ed Fiori in 1996 when Woods was a 20-year-old rookie and Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship.


Woods attributed his big lead to the "whole package."


"I've driven the ball well, I've hit my irons well, and I've chipped and putted well," he said. "Well, I've hit good putts. They all haven't gone in."


Woods has a good history of Monday finishes, starting with Torrey Pines. It was on this course along the coast north of La Jolla that Woods won a 19-hole playoff against Rocco Mediate to capture the 2008 U.S. Open for his 14th major.


He also won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a Monday in 2000 when he rallied from seven shots behind with seven holes to play. He won his lone title in The Players Championship on a Monday, along with a five-shot win in the Memorial in 2000, and a scheduled Monday finish in the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston.


Woods even gets to sleep in.


A Monday finish because of weather typically resumes in the morning so players can get to the next tournament. CBS Sports, however, decided it wanted to televise the conclusion, and so play won't begin until 2 p.m. EST. That decision might have been based on Woods being headed toward victory — just a hunch.


Woods already has won seven times at Torrey Pines, including the U.S. Open. That matches his PGA Tour record at Bay Hill and Firestone (Sam Snead won the Greensboro Open eight times, four each on a different course).


The tournament isn't over, and Woods doesn't see it that way.


"I've got to continue with executing my game plan. That's the idea," he said. "I've got 11 holes to play, and I've got to play them well."


He seized control with his 69 in the third round that gave him a four-shot lead, and he might have put this away in the two hours he played before darkness stopped play.


He badly missed the first fairway to the left, but had a gap through the Torrey pines to the green and had a two-putt par. He missed his next shot so far to the left that the ball wound up in the first cut of the adjacent sixth fairway. He still managed a simple up-and-down for par.


After a 10-foot birdie on the par-3 third, Woods couldn't afford to go left off the tee again because of the PGA Tour's largest water hazard — the Pacific Ocean. So he went miles right, beyond a cart path, a tree blocking his way to the green. He hit a cut shot that came up safely short of the green, and then chipped in from 40 feet for birdie.


"I was able to play those holes in 2-under par," Woods said. "And then I hit three great drives right in a row."


One of them wasn't that great — it was in the right rough, the ball so buried that from 214 yards that Woods hit a 5-wood. It scooted down the fairway and onto the green, setting up a two-putt birdie the stretched his lead to six shots. And after another good drive, the horn sounded to stop play. Because it was due to weather, Woods was able to finish the hole, and he two-putted for par.


Eleven holes on Monday were all that were keeping him from his 75th career win on the PGA Tour, and delivering a message to the rest of golf that there could be more of this to follow no matter what the golf course.


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Djokovic beats Murray for 3rd straight Aust. Title


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic returned to his dominant best, becoming the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles when he beat Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday night.


Nine other men had won back-to-back titles in Australia since 1968, but none were able to claim three in a row.


"I love this court," Djokovic said. "It's definitely my favorite Grand Slam. It's an incredible feeling winning this trophy once more."


He has won four of his six majors titles at at Melbourne Park, where he is now unbeaten in 21 matches.


Born a week apart in May 1987 and friends since their junior playing days, the two played like they knew each other's game very well in a rematch of last year's U.S. Open final won by Murray. There were no service breaks until the eighth game of the third set, when Djokovic finally broke through and then held at love to lead by two sets to one.


Djokovic earned two more service breaks in the fourth set, including one to take a 4-1 lead when Murray double-faulted on break point.


The 25-year-old Serb didn't rip his shirt off this time, as he did to celebrate his epic 5-hour, 53-minute win over Rafael Nadal in last year's final. He just did a little dance, looked up to the sky and then applauded the crowd after the 3-hour, 40-minute match.


Murray's win over Djokovic in the U.S. Open final last year ended a 76-year drought for British men at the majors, but he still is yet to make a breakthrough in Australia after losing a third final here in the last four years.


Djokovic's win went against the odds of recent finals at Melbourne Park. In four of the past five years, the player who won his semifinal second has won the tournament. But this year, Djokovic played his semifinal on Thursday — an easy three-set, 89-minute minute win over No. 4-seeded David Ferrer. Murray needed five energy sapping sets to beat 17-time major winner Roger Federer on Friday night.


The win consolidated Djokovic's position as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, while Federer and Murray will be second and third when the ATP rankings are released Monday.


Their last two matches in Grand Slams — Murray's five-set win at last year's U.S. Open and Djokovic's victory here last year in five in the semifinals — had a total of 35 service breaks.


It was a vastly different, more tactical battle on Sunday, with the first two tight sets decided in tiebreakers.


Murray, who called for a trainer to retape blisters on his right foot at the end of the second set, was visibly annoyed by noise from the crowd during his service games in the third set, stopping his service motion twice until the crowd quieted down. After dropping the third set, he complained about the noise to chair umpire John Blom.


Djokovic also appeared frustrated at times, kicking the ball football-style back over the net after he hit a forehand long during a lengthy point, and muttering to himself while sitting down in his chair during changeovers. But both players were guilty of making unforced errors, often ending long rallies with shots into the net or long.


Murray's fans came dressed for the occasion, with some wearing "Braveheart"-style wigs, Scottish flags painted on their faces and tartan caps. One group of men wore white T-shirts with black letters that spelled out A-N-D-Y; they serenaded Murray at the start of the first two sets.


There were a number of Serbian shirts, caps and flags in the stadium, as well as fans calling "Ajde!" or "Come on!" in Serbian to support Djokovic. Retired NBA basketball star Vlade Divac was sitting in Djokovic's box.


Djokovic looked agitated after failing to convert the break points in the first set, frequently looking up to his box and yelling at the members of his team and himself.


Although Djokovic went into the match with a 10-7 lead in head-to-heads, Murray had beaten Djokovic five out of eight times in tiebreakers, and that improved to six of nine after four unforced errors by Djokovic to end the first set.


Djokovic pegged back that edge in the second set, when Murray also didn't help his cause by double-faulting to give Djokovic a 3-2 lead, and the Serbian player didn't trail again in the tiebreaker. He leveled the match after nearly 2 hours, 15 minutes.


Andre Agassi was among those in the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena — the four-time Australian champion's first trip Down Under in nearly 10 years — and he later presented the trophy to Djokovic.


Victoria Azarenka, who won Saturday's women's singles final over Li Na, was in the crowd with her boyfriend rapper Redfoo. Actor Kevin Spacey, who met in the dressing room with both players ahead of the match and later tweeted a photo of himself with them, also was in attendance for the third straight night.


In the earlier mixed doubles final Sunday, wild-card entrants Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden of Australia beat the Czech pair of Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak 6-3, 7-5.


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Azarenka secures back-to-back Australian titles


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Victoria Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open title, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.


The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle in the fifth game of the second set and had it taped.


On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head on the court. The 2011 French Open champion was treated immediately and had another timeout before being allowed to resume the match.


Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won five of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking.


"Unfortunately, you have to go through some rough patches to achieve great things. That's what makes it so special for me," she said. "I went through that, and I'm still able to kiss that beautiful trophy."


Serena Williams, who lost in the quarterfinals, will become the new No. 2 in the rankings.


The 2-hour, 40-minute match featured 16 service breaks, with Li losing her service nine times.


On a crisp Saturday night, Azarenka won the coin toss and elected to receive, a ploy that seemed to work when a nervous Li was broken to start the match. After a double fault on the first point, Li's forehand long gave Azarenka the early lead.


When she first injured her ankle, Li was trailing 3-1 in the second set. When she came back, she won three of the next four games to level the set at 4-4, but Azarenka broke back and then held her serve to level the match.


Azarenka broke in the opening game of the final set, just two games before the match was suspended for the fireworks, a planned stoppage of play that both players were notified about before the match.


While Azarenka jogged around and practiced her serving motion during the 10-minute fireworks break, Li sat on her courtside chair for most of the stoppage.


It was on the first point that she again fell to the court.


Li said she went "totally black" for two seconds after her head hit the court, and when a medical official asked her to follow her finger, "I started laughing, thinking 'This is a tennis court, not like a hospital.'"


Li said the tournament doctor saw her after the match and checked out her head and neck.


"I should be OK,' Li said.


From the outset, the capacity crowd at Rod Laver Arena was firmly behind Li, cheering loudly when she was introduced. Azarenka, meanwhile, had her errors applauded, and one spectator even mocked the loud hooting sound she makes when she hits a shot.


The chill from the crowd was a remnant of Azarenka's semifinal win over American teenager Sloane Stephens, when Azarenka was criticized for taking a questionable 10-minute medical timeout near the end of the match. She was accused of taking the time out to compose herself after she'd wasted five match points while serving for the match against Stephens, although Azarenka said she needed the time out because a rib injury was making it difficult for her to breathe.


In the second set Saturday, a few fans heckled Azarenka over the incident. One man yelled, "Take a deep breath, Vicky."


By the end of the match, she appeared to have won some of the fans back. Azarenka's friend, rapper Redfoo, yelled down to her from the player box "You deserve it," and she later blew kisses to the crowd. Someone else in the crowd shouted "Victoria, we love you."


Azarekna appeared to quickly forgive the crowd, saying during the trophy presentations that she wanted to thank the fans for their support.


"I will always keep very special memories of this court and it will be in my heart forever," she said, pausing several times to find the right words. "Of course, I (almost) forgot to say congratulations to Li Na, she's had a terrific start to the year ... hope to see you in many, many more finals."


Azarenka and Li had met twice before in Grand Slam tournaments, with Li winning both times — in the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open and quarterfinals at the French Open. Li lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Kim Clijsters but won her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros a few months later, beating Francesca Schiavone.


But after failing to advance past the fourth round at any major in 2012, Li hired Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin's former coach. The hard training he's put her through in the past four months appears to be paying dividends.


Li won a WTA tournament in China before travelling to Australia, where she advanced to the semifinals at the Sydney International.


In the men's final on Sunday, Novak Djokovic will attempt to win his third consecutive Australian Open against U.S. Open champion Andy Murray. Djokovic has had the benefit of an extra day off after an easy three-set win over David Ferrer on Thursday night, while Murray needed a tough five-setter to defeat Roger Federer.


Murray has predicted a tough match with long rallies against Djokovic, the player he beat in the final at Flushing Meadows in September.


"I'm ready for the pain," he said. "I hope it's a painful match, that will mean it will be a good one."


In the other final Sunday to end the year's first Grand Slam, the unseeded pairs of Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden of Australia and the Czech Republic's Lucie Hradecka and Frantisek Cermak play for the mixed doubles championship.


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Murray beats Federer, reaches Australian final


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray has beaten Roger Federer for the first time in a Grand Slam event to advance to the Australian Open final against top-ranked Novak Djokovic.


Murray, who became the first British man to win a major in 76 years when he beat Djokovic in last year's U.S. Open final, missed a chance to serve for the match in the fourth set before beating Federer 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 in a tense semifinal Friday.


The No. 3-ranked Murray, who lost Australian finals in 2010 and 2011, will be playing his third consecutive major final when he takes on two-time defending champion Djokovic on Sunday.


Murray lost the Wimbledon final to Federer — their third meeting in a major — before his career breakthrough in New York.


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NCAA announces problems with Miami investigation


CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — The NCAA's probe of Miami's athletic compliance practices is ramping up yet again.


Only this time, the Hurricanes aren't exactly the subject of the inquiry.


In a bizarre twist, it's college sports' governing body itself that is being investigated after NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged on Wednesday "a very severe issue of improper conduct" by former investigators working the long, complex Miami case.


The NCAA said its investigation was based, at least in part, on information that it should not have had access to, the testimony of those who appeared under subpoena to be deposed in the bankruptcy case involving former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, one of the most notorious Ponzi scheme architects in history.


The NCAA does not have subpoena power. Shapiro's attorney did, and used it — and apparently entered into some sort of contractual agreement with the NCAA, one that apparently either was not or should never have been approved.


"We cannot have the NCAA bringing forward an allegation ... that was collected by processes none of us could stand for," Emmert said. "We're going to move it as fast as possible, but we have to get this right."


Wednesday's revelations mean that the notice of allegations against Miami — the NCAA's findings of wrongdoing, a document that was nearly completed and was expected to be released by the end of this week — will be delayed for at least a couple more weeks, if not longer. The long-term ramifications could be more damning for the NCAA, especially if the outside investigator they have commissioned to look into the mess finds more problems.


The NCAA did not name the attorney involved, whom Emmert only referred to as "she." The NCAA said it would not confirm that it was Maria Elena Perez, a Miami graduate and Shapiro's longtime defense attorney.


Perez did not respond to telephone or email messages. A person in her office said the attorney was working in New York and would be forwarded requests for comment.


"As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case," Miami President Donna Shalala said.


Emmert said two depositions are involved in this allegation of improper conduct by former enforcement-office staffers. One of those two depositions was given Dec. 19, 2011, by former Miami equipment-room staffer Sean Allen — who has been linked to Shapiro and many of the allegations that he made against the university.


Among the questions Allen was asked in that deposition:


— "Did you ever witness Mr. Shapiro paying any money to any University of Miami football or basketball players?"


— "Would it be fair to say that Mr. Shapiro did, in fact, confer various financial benefits on the University of Miami Athletic Program and its players?"


— "Did you ever overhear any of the coaches or any other staff for the University of Miami providing Mr. Shapiro with inside information regarding, you know, the condition of any particular athlete for the purposes of Mr. Shapiro's gambling?"


It's unknown which of Allen's answers caught the NCAA investigators' attention.


What is known publicly now, and has been suspected by some for months, is that those investigators never should have known those questions were asked.


"How in the world can you get this far without it being recognized that this was an inappropriate way to proceed?" Emmert asked.


That's the question that the NCAA wants answered, and fast.


Emmert spoke angrily at times during a half-hour conference call to discuss the findings, in which he revealed that he briefed the NCAA's executive committee and the Division I board presidents with some information about the Miami matter. He said he developed a better understanding of what went on in the days that followed, which led to the hiring of Kenneth L. Wainstein of the firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP to conduct the external review of what happened.


Wainstein, Emmert said, will begin his probe on Thursday, with the NCAA hoping that he can finish within two weeks.


"We want to make sure that any evidence that's brought forward is appropriately collected and it has the integrity that we expect and demand," Emmert said.


It was part of a stunning day for Hurricane athletics: The 25th-ranked men's basketball team routed No. 1 Duke later Wednesday, 90-63.


Emmert said the NCAA was trying to find out why part of the investigation was based on depositions specific to the bankruptcy case against Shapiro, who will have to repay $82.7 million to his victims as part of his sentence. And the timing of this also is curious. Several people who were to be named in the NCAA's notice of allegations against Miami have been told that the document was in the final stages of preparation — and one person who spoke with the AP said at least one person who was to have faced a charge of wrongdoing was told the letter was scheduled for delivery to Miami on Tuesday.


Now it's anyone's guess when that will happen.


Emmert said the NCAA learned of the alleged misconduct, in part, through legal bills presented by Shapiro's attorney for work that was not properly approved by the organization's general counsel's office.


"One of the questions that has to be answered, unequivocally, is what was the nature of that contractual arrangement and what was all the activity that that individual was involved with," Emmert said. "There is some uncertainty about all of that and it's one of the first orders of business for the firm that we've hired to investigate."


The Hurricanes' athletic compliance practices have been probed by the NCAA for nearly two years. Allegations of wrongdoing involving Miami's football and men's basketball programs became widely known in August 2011 when Yahoo Sports published accusations brought by Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.


Miami has self-imposed two football postseason bans in response to the investigation. The Hurricanes also would have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this past season, meaning they could have qualified for the Orange Bowl.


"In my two-and-a-half years I've certainly never seen anything like this, and don't want to see it again," Emmert said.


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Te'o tells Couric he briefly lied about girlfriend


NEW YORK (AP) — Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o has told Katie Couric that he briefly lied about his online girlfriend after discovering she didn't exist.


Te'o said in an interview to air Thursday on Couric's show that he didn't lie about the hoax until December, believing Lennay Kekua had died of cancer. A segment of the interview with Te'o and his parents was broadcast Wednesday on "Good Morning America."


The Heisman Trophy runner-up received a phone call in December from a woman saying she was Kekua, whom he believed had died in September.


Te'o said, "Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?"


Te'o maintained that he had no part in creating the hoax.


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Jim, John Harbaugh ready for rematch at Super Bowl


SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jim and John Harbaugh have exchanged a handful of text messages, and plan to leave it at that. No phone conversations necessary while the season's still going. No time for pleasantries, even for the friendly siblings.


There is work to be done to prepare for the Super Bowl, prepare for each other, prepare for a history-making day already being widely hyped as "Harbowl" or "Superbaugh" depending which nickname you prefer.


"It doesn't matter who the coach is, what relationship you have with the person on the other side," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said so matter-of-factly Monday afternoon.


Their parents sure aren't picking sides for the Feb. 3 matchup in New Orleans.


These days, the Harbaughs' longtime coaching father, Jack, stays away from game-planning chatter or strategy sessions with his Super Bowl-bound coaching sons. Baltimore's John Harbaugh and little brother Jim have been doing this long enough now to no longer need dad's input.


Yet, they still regularly seek it. And, their father does offer one basic mantra: "Get ahead, stay ahead."


"Probably the greatest advice that I've ever been given and the only advice that I've ever found to be true in all of coaching, I think we mentioned it to both John and Jim ... the coaching advice is, 'Get ahead, stay ahead,'" Jack Harbaugh said.


"If I'm called upon, I'll repeat that same message."


His boys still call home regularly to check in with the man who turned both on to the coaching profession years ago, and the mother who has handled everything behind the scenes for decades in a highly competitive, sports-crazed family — with all the routine sports clich├ęs to show for it.


The Harbaugh brothers will become the first siblings to square off from opposite sidelines when their teams play for the NFL championship at the Superdome.


Not that they're too keen on playing up the storyline that has no chance of going away as hard as they try.


"Well, I think it's a blessing and a curse," Jim Harbaugh said Monday. "A blessing because that is my brother's team. And, also, personally I played for the Ravens. Great respect for their organization. ... The curse part would be the talk of two brothers playing in the Super Bowl and what that takes away from the players that are in the game. Every moment that you're talking about myself or John, that's less time that the players are going to be talked about."


Both men love history, just not the kind with them making it.


"I like reading a lot of history ... I guess it's pretty neat," John Harbaugh offered Monday. "But is it really going to be written about? It's not exactly like Churchill and Roosevelt or anything. It's pretty cool, but that's as far as it goes."


Nice try, guys.


John watched the end of Jim's game from the field in Foxborough, Mass., as Baltimore warmed up for the AFC championship game. Jim called his sister's family from the team plane before takeoff after a win at Atlanta and asked how his big brother's team was doing against New England.


The improbable Super Bowl features a set of brothers known around the NFL as fierce competitors unafraid to make a bold move during the season. Unafraid to upset anyone who stands in their way.


In fact, each one made a major change midseason to get this far — John fired his offensive coordinator, while Jim boosted his offense with a quarterback switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.


Leading up to Sunday's games, parents Jack and Jackie said they would wait to decide whether to travel to New Orleans if both teams advanced or stick to what has been working so well — watching from the comfort of their couch in Mequon, Wis.


"We enjoy it very much. We get down in our basement, turn on the television and just have a fantastic day watching outstanding football," Jack said last week. "We share our misery with no one but ourselves. Not only the misery, but the ups and downs, the ins and outs of an outstanding professional game."


And, no, the Harbaughs weren't looking ahead to a potential big trip to the Big Easy.


Jack insists his wife is quick to pull out that old sports cliche: "It's one game at a time. I think it's very appropriate," he said.


Jim figures they won't possibly miss this history-making game.


"I think they'll be there," he said with a smile.


The brothers, separated in age by 15 months, have taken different paths to football's biggest stage — years after their intense games of knee football at the family home. They tried to beat each other at cards, or whatever other game it was at the time. Sometimes, they tried to beat each other up. Sister, Joani Crean, often got in on the fun, too.


The 49-year-old Jim never reached a Super Bowl, falling a last-gasp pass short during a 15-year NFL career as a quarterback. The 50-year-old John never played in the NFL.


Still, both will tell you, "Who's got it better than us? No-body!" — one catchphrase they got from their dad.


"We can't put into words what it means to see John and Jim achieve this incredible milestone," their brother-in-law, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, said on Twitter. "We talked to Jim (before) his team plane left. All he wanted to know was how was John doing? How were they playing? One incredible family who puts the care, well-being and love for each other at the forefront like most families do. Again, we are very proud of them. Going to be exciting to watch it unfold."


John worked his way up from the bottom of the coaching ranks, while Jim was the star college quarterback at Michigan, a first-round draft pick and eventual Pro Bowler who made coaching his career once he retired.


John already has the one-up, while Jim's team is the early favorite. John's Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving night 2011, in Jim's rookie season as an NFL coach — though both know that means nothing now.


"I just want everybody to know, that was a four-day deal and every story has been told," John said. "We're not that interesting. There's nothing more to learn. The tape across the middle of the room story, OK, you got it? It's OK. It was just like any other family, really. I really hope the focus is not so much on that. We get it, it's really cool and it's exciting and all that."


Said Jim, "Completely new business."


In spite of his efforts to avoid the topic, Jim did take the opportunity to express how proud he is of John.


"He's a great football coach, a real grasp of all phases — offense, defense, special teams. I think he could coordinate at least two of those phases and do it as well as anyone in the league," Jim said. "I've got half the amount of coaching experience he does. Again, it's not about us. I keep coming back to that. I'm really proud of my brother. I love him. That's the blessing part, that this is happening to him."


And, fittingly for the big brother, John feels the exact same way.


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AP Sports Writer Dave Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this story.


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Harbaugh brothers take 49ers, Ravens to Super Bowl


This Super Bowl will be filled with firsts — and one significant last.


The Harbaughs, San Francisco's Jim and Baltimore's John, will be the first pair of brothers to coach against each other in the NFL title game.


Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Joe Flacco of the Ravens each will be playing in his first Super Bowl — where success is the ultimate measure of elite QBs.


It'll be Baltimore's first crack at a championship in a dozen years, San Francisco's first in 18. They are a combined 6-0 in Super Bowls (the 49ers own five of those victories), so one club will lose the big game for the first time.


And middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Baltimore's emotional leader and top tackler, will be playing in the final game of his 17-year career before heading into retirement.


"This is our time," Lewis pronounced.


For all of those story lines, none is expected to command as much attention as Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. The game in New Orleans on Feb. 3 was quickly given all manner of nicknames: The Brother Bowl. The Harbaugh Bowl. The Har-Bowl. The Super-Baugh.


The Harbaughs' sister, Joani Crean, wrote in a text to The Associated Press: "Overwhelmed with pride for John, Jim and their families! They deserve all that has come their way! Team Harbaugh!"


As John prepared to coach the Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday night, he watched on the stadium's big video screen as Jim's 49ers wrapped up the NFC championship.


John looked into a nearby TV camera, smiled broadly and said: "Hey, Jim, congratulations. You did it. You're a great coach. Love you."


Less than four hours later, the Ravens won, too. Some siblings try to beat each other in backyard games. These guys will do it in the biggest game of all.


Who's a parent to cheer for?


During the 2011 regular season, the Harbaughs became the only brothers to coach against each other in any NFL game (the Ravens beat the 49ers 16-6 on Thanksgiving Day that year).


The NFC West champion 49ers (13-4-1) opened as 5-point favorites, seeking a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title to add to those won by Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.


Lewis was the MVP when the AFC North champion Ravens (13-6) beat the New York Giants in 2001.


With Kaepernick's terrific passing — he was 16 of 21 for 233 yards and a touchdown in only his ninth career NFL start — and two TD runs by Frank Gore, San Francisco erased a 17-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 Sunday.


Baltimore then fashioned a comeback of its own, scoring the last 21 points to defeat the New England Patriots 28-13, thanks in large part to Flacco's three second-half touchdown tosses, two to Anquan Boldin. Lewis and the rest of Baltimore's defense limited the high-scoring Patriots to one touchdown.


In the often risk-averse NFL, each Harbaugh made a critical change late in the regular season in a bid to boost his team's postseason chances. Clearly, both moves worked.


After 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the starter in last season's overtime NFC title game loss to the Giants, got a concussion, Jim switched to Kaepernick for Week 11 — and never switched back. Now San Francisco has its first three-game winning streak of the season, at precisely the right time.


Baltimore, meanwhile, was in the midst of a three-game losing streak when John fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoted quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell to replace him.


The 50-year-old John is 15 months older than Jim and generally the less demonstrative of the pair, although John certainly did not lack intensity while making his case with officials a couple of times Sunday.


The ever-excitable Jim — who was treated for an irregular heartbeat in November — was up to his usual sideline antics in Atlanta.


He spun around and sent his headset flying when the original call stood after he threw his red challenge flag on a catch by the Falcons. He hopped and yelled at his defense to get off the field after their key fourth-down stop with less than 1½ minutes left. He made an emphatic-as-can-be timeout signal with 13 seconds remaining.


Expect CBS to fill plenty of time during its Super Bowl broadcast with shots of Jim, that trademark red pen dangling in front of his chest, and John, who usually wears a black Ravens hat. That is sure to be a focal point, right up until they meet for a postgame handshake in two weeks' time.


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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.


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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich


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