By Chris Shellcroft

You'll forgive me if I state the obvious by saying Floyd Mayweather is getting ready to have some time on his hands -- 90 days to be exact. You'll also forgive me if I reiterate the obvious by claiming Money May loves making ... well ... money.

If anybody can take the lemons that life gives them and turn those sour fruits into Aston Martins, it's Pretty Boy Floyd. (Quick side note -- Floyd may want consider dropping the "Pretty Boy" moniker for the next three months starting June 1.)

In the history of sports no other athlete has been more profitable to themself than Money May. Put it this way, the only one getting rich off Mayweather is Mayweather. Well, I'm sure his notorious weekends at the sports books have helped a few casinos turn a profit on an otherwise slow week, but we're getting into semantics here.

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By Tim Joyce

Editor's note: This column was submitted before Brian Baker's five-set loss in the second round of today's French Open.

American tennis is at an all-time low, one hears all the time. With only one male ranked in the Top 10, never have we seen such a dearth of talent from the country that has claimed easily the most Grand Slam titles. It has been written about so often that until the next true American Grand Slam threat emerges, the topic need not be brought up.

But at this year's French Open, an American tennis story has rapidly developed that is far more compelling than the tedious discussion of an overhyped up-and-comer. I am speaking of the inspiring story of Brian Baker.

While likely no one besides passionate tennis followers is aware of the unassuming 27-year-old Tennessee native, his straight-set victory Monday in his opening match over former Top 20 player Xavier Malisse is nothing short of stunning. Baker's only prior win in a Slam event had come at the 2005 U.S. Open.

Tennis, even more than golf, is a sport dominated by a small handful of stars. For casual fans, only three men bear watching: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. These three have accounted for 27 of the last 28 Grand Slam titles, a run of dominance unprecedented in the rich history of the sport.

At one time, Baker wore that dreaded label of "possibly the next American star." His saga has the potential to drown in the clichés that are unerringly accurate in describing a journey back from seemingly career-ending injuries. The overwhelming majority of tennis players exist in anonymity. Which is why it's enjoyable to relay Baker's narrative.

After reaching the finals of the French Open junior championships in 2003, Baker, then 17, was justifiably viewed as someone with significant potential. And with Andy Roddick in his all-too-brief ascent, being ranked No. 1 for the first and only time at the end of 2003, some thought the continuous line of American stars would continue unabated. While Baker was never viewed in the same light as Roddick - or even as the current top Americans, John Isner and Mardy Fish - he was seen as a rarity in American tennis as an all-court player.

But then a relentless and demoralizing series of injuries destroyed - or were thought to destroy - his career. Reading the list of his ailments, it's incredible that he even had a chance to restart, let alone accomplish success in, his career. Baker endured five surgeries in six years - three on his hip, one Tommy John elbow surgery and one for a hernia.

From the time he was 20 to 26, the prime years for any tennis player, Baker was unable to play in a single ATP event. But he never gave up what many considered false hope. While he went through rehab after rehab, Baker continued to be involved in tennis, most notably coaching the men's team at Belmont University in Nashville.

Then, finally, Baker felt good enough last year to enter the qualifying rounds for a Futures event (the Double-A level of the tennis minor leagues) in Pittsburgh. He won the tournament. He then entered a second Futures event, this time in Canada, and won every match he played before withdrawing in the semifinals. And just last month, Baker stepped up a level, entered a Challengers tourney in Savannah, Ga., and won it. His performance in Savannah earned him a wild card from the USTA into the French Open.

One would have thought Baker would rest his newly tested body and prepare for the French Open. But the re-energized player decided to forgo the conservative route and entered the Nice warmup event the week before the French Open. This is where he started to gain significant attention, as he defeated Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko en route to the finals, where he was finally beaten by 13th-ranked Nicolas Almagro.

And now the quiet American has made it to the second round of his first Grand Slam event in seven years. His next opponent will be Frenchman Gilles Simon, who notched a hard-fought victory over - hate to say it - future American star Ryan Harrison.

Can Baker possibly continue his implausible voyage through the draw? After beating several players of Simon's magnitude, it wouldn't be at all shocking if Baker scored another victory. After all, in his first seven days of ATP tournament tennis in six years, Baker has won six of the seven matches he has played.

"I think that's why it makes it so much sweeter to have that success now, because of how much I went through in the past, how much pain and just having tennis taken away from you not from your own doing," Baker said before the tournament. "It's not like I wanted to quit tennis. So it's definitely that much sweeter that I'm able to have success now."

And it's plenty sweet to watch. Who would have thought an American man would be the story at the start of the French Open?

Award-winning columnist Tim Joyce provides regular commentary for RealClearSports.

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By Darren Rovell

A few years ago, I attended a military recruitment session with NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, who is sponsored by the U.S. Army. Many had criticized the sponsorship as a waste of money, but Newman and an Army official told me that day that the numbers actually made sense.

I took their word for it.

Fast forward to this week. On Thursday, an amendment attached to the $608 billion defense bill that prohibits every sports sponsorship from the U.S. military, was passed by the House Appropriations Committee.

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One of the co-sponsors, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn), has put out some incredible numbers on military sports sponsorship, the most eye-opening of which is the amount taxpayers paid to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car over the last five years: $136 million. In the past two years alone, the National Guard spent $121 million on sponsorship, $90 million of which went to NASCAR.

Earnhardt himself said Friday that McCollum and her co-sponsor, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), should "do more homework, get more facts."

But the facts don't seem to be in his favor. Major Brian Creech, resources and contracts manager for the National Guard recruiting division, told USA Today that 24,800 individuals were interested in joining the National Guard thanks to the car racing sponsorship. Creech told the paper that 20 people qualified to actually serve, but none did.

There's no "defense" for that.

At least the military can say flyovers over stadiums count as training missions.

-- Questions? Comments? Email Or check out more Sports Biz with Darren Rovell.

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Let's not get carried away with the Pacers.

To make an appearance in the NBA Finals, teams are usually graced with some form of 'great.' A great coach. Great player(s). Great team. Great defense. Et al. That word, however, doesn’t befit one team suddenly thrust into Finals contention this postseason.

The Indiana Pacers, now up 2-1 on an undermanned and imploding Miami Heat, are tantalizingly close to earning a spot in the conference finals. Beyond that lies the admiration that comes with a Finals berth, admiration that will no doubt result in this current Pacer squad being referred to as "great" by generations that follow. Yet, no matter how far their postseason journey continues, nothing will change the fact Indiana lacks any grandiose qualities.

Sure, Frank Vogel's players compete. They run good actions on offense and their defensive rotations are far from being confused with a Chinese fire drill. Their roster unquestionably has talent and depth, evidenced by the fact that Indy can play nine guys with nary a PER (player efficiency rating) catastrophe (something their current opponent longs for). They even finished the regular season ranked 8th in offensive efficiency and 10th defensively. Good marks, but spots in which the most apt adjective to describe them is probably south of "great."

Then there's the interesting fact that 27 of Indy's 42 wins came against teams below .500 during the regular season. That 27-4 mark against the league's doormats was tops in the league. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a 'good' sign when you beat teams you should, but taking advantage of the hapless hardly makes one elite.

The sign of a great team? Beating other good ones consistently. The Pacers, however, went 15-20 against teams above the breakeven point. Compare that to two teams filled with all kinds of great, the Spurs and the Thunder, who combined to thrash teams north of .500 to the tune of 58-26 record. (An outlandish .069 winning percentage that one may even dare refer to as '

Indiana's application for greatness doesn't just fall short there either. One of the most telling indicators of true team strength, point differential, saw Indy finish 5th ... in the East. They trailed Miami, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia and barely placed ahead of a schizophrenic New York team. That led to a playoff seed and the point in this narrative where we introduce how 'Luck' met 'Good.'

Other team's injuries are clearly something out of the Pacers' control, but they gave Indiana a major boost this past season. Atlanta saw everyone's favorite Horford tear his pec. New York found, then lost, Jeremy Lin. Down in Orlando, Dwight Howard ironically hurt his back during a season in which he was accused of running around stabbing others in the same area. Indiana, meanwhile, saw George Hill miss a small slate of games but mainly enjoyed pristine health. Those factors all contributed, in varying degrees, to how Indy's regular season finished up with third seed and home-court advantage in Round One.

The playoffs, however, is where the injury misfortune of others really fueled Indiana’s hopes. Howard's back surgery not only caused the Magic to tumble out of the top four, but land opposite the Pacers in the playoff bracket. Orlando, despite some feisty performances, was far from ever being a serious threat to knock Indiana out of the playoffs. That semi-bye brought them to their current match-up against the Heat in Round Two rather stress free.

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This current series had the Pacers largely left for dead until the now infamous Bosh injury midway through Game 1. That injury has left a rather ordinary Miami team behind, one facing a possibly 3-1 deficit should the Pacers take care of business one more time on their home floor Saturday night. Should Indy get the job done and advance, their opponent in the conference finals will also be at the benefit of other's injury misfortune.

Awaiting them on the doorstep of the Finals is either a lowly eighth seed or a walking M.A.S.H. unit that has four key rotation members subsisting on BenGay and duct tape to get them through games. Both Boston and Philadelphia are even given their opportunity thanks to a superior Bulls team bowing out, due in large part, to Derrick Rose's ACL tear. Had Rose (or even Joakim Noah) stayed healthy, Chicago’s presence would be hovering over Indiana like a dark cloud on a sunny day.

Now, don’t go interrupting this attempt at providing context as some vindictive, anti-Pacer rant. As far as this writer is concerned, who wins and who loses is inconsequential. I, like most without a horse in the race, just want to be entertained. So the Pacers could ride this streak of fortuitous breaks all the way to a championship and unless it comes with a bunch of boring basketball, it will have no ill-effect on me. In fact, for fans of Indiana Pacer basketball, I will think it's great. I just won't ever be calling their team that.

-- Brett Koremenos is the Editor at NBA Playbook and a contributor to Hoopspeak. Follow him on Twitter.

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While training for his May 5 bout against Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr. wore a T-shirt that read: God gifted -- the best ever -- a champ that is here to stay -- 43-0.

Like him or not, "Money" Mayweather is one of the best fighters of our generation. His mouth is faster than his hands sometimes and his cocksure attitude often rubs people the wrong way, but you can't argue the simple fact that the man has never lost in 42 professional fights.

Correction. Make that 43 professional fights, if you ask Floyd.

When Mayweather steps into the ring Saturday night at the Las Vegas MGM Grand Garden Arena against Cotto, a man who has only lost two professional fights, Money May will most likely add another notch to his boxing legacy. Here are three keys to a Mayweather victory:

1) Defense Wins Championships
Nazim Richardson, who trained Shane Mosley for his 2010 bout with Mayweather, describes the pound-for-pound champ as a "talented coward." It sounded like a diss but Richardson was actually paying Floyd a compliment. Richardson was basically pointing out the fact that Mayweather can dominate an opponent without having to put himself in harm's way. It's a credit to his impenetrable style, an approach that has served him well in his career.

2) Timing Is Everything
Mayweather has quick hands, but what makes his punches a lot faster is his incredible timing. His ability to catch his opponents with the perfect counterpunch is the reason why he's such a special athlete. And he can counterpunch with either hand with pin-point accuracy from a defensive stance, making it extremely difficult to mount a consistent attack on him. Cotto tends to dip his head when he moves in, so watch Mayweather slow him down with left hooks and straight rights.

3) Game-changer
In the Mayweather-Mosley bout in 2010, Mosley, knowing Mayweather was going to stay back on his heels, came out fast and furious in the first two rounds and even rocked Floyd with a right hand in round two. What did Floyd do? He flipped the script and became the aggressor. Mayweather repeatedly beat Mosley to the punch and easily won a unanimous decision. Whatever Cotto has planned for Saturday night, expect Mayweather to change on the fly and make the proper adjustment to secure the victory.

-- Related Story: Cotto's Keys Vs. Mayweather

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When Miguel Cotto defeated Antonio Margarito five months ago, he not only avenged his first loss as a professional but he also exorcised the demons that have haunted him the past four years.

Any time you lose for the first time, especially in the fashion Cotto did in 2008 to Margarito, your confidence takes a major hit. Cotto was obviously not the same fighter, and it showed in bouts against Joshua Clottey and Manny Pacquiao.

That's why the victory over Margarito last December was so significant because it provided Cotto some closure and much needed momentum heading into his May 5 bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Mayweather presents the greatest challenge for Cotto, even more so than Pacquiao. Hey, everyone thought Ivan Drago was a machine until Rocky Balboa exposed his human side. Beating Mayweather will be a tall order, but it is not an impossible task. Here are three keys to a Cotto victory:

1) Body Blows
Cotto is a head-hunter, but against Mayweather he needs to go to the body. Floyd has superb head movement and rolls his shoulders to deflect punches, making it extremely difficult to get a clean shot on him. Cotto has to keep Mayweather's right hand occupied by throwing the left jab and then come back with a right cross to the left side of Mayweather's body.

2) Let Your Hands Go
Almost all of Mayweather's fights become one-sided because Floyd's opponents tend to let up when they get down. Cotto can't allow Floyd to be comfortable in the middle of the ring. He has to stalk Mayweather and force him to come out of his defensive shell. And the way to do that is by unleashing a barrage of punches from all angles and apply constant pressure.

3) Lean And Mean
Cotto is comfortable as a super welterweight. He must be physical with Floyd, but do it within the context of the fight and not pull a Victor Ortiz-type stunt. Cotto needs to lean on Mayweather and make him use up some energy. Cotto has no choice but to junk up the fight to disrupt Mayweather's timing.

-- Related Story: Mayweather's Keys Vs. Cotto

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