In becoming the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983, Meb Kefelzighi had a little help from his friends.

After Monday's race, several runners told the website that Ryan Hall and his compatriots worked together to slow the pace of the elite pack and prevent any challengers from making a late push to overcome Kefelzighi.

Kefelzighi, 38, took an early lead in the race but runner-up Wilson Chebet of Kenya admitted that he and several other elite runners expected Kefelzighi to fade late. Then they would surge and overcome the 2004 Olympic silver medalist.

But as it turned out, Hall persuaded several other top Americans to keep the pace of the pack slow, which would make it harder for another runner to surge later.

American Nicholas Arciniaga, who finished seventh, discussed the strategy with

“I was in the lead pack with all of the other Americans and all of the Africans and about 15k to 20k, Ryan Hall and I were running side by side, in front of the lead pack but not really pushing it, and Ryan just kept turning over to me, talking (to me and saying), ‘Hey don’t push the pace. If they want to let those guys go, they are going to have work to catch back up to them. We are not going to help them out with that at all. If we want an American to win, this is how it’s going to be done.”

Craig Leon, who finished 12th, confirmed Arciniaga's story.

“I think it was maybe halfway or a little past halfway and it had slowed kind of considerably and Jason (Hartmann) and I were kind of moving our way through the pack and were just going to maintain pace (and keep moving up), and at one point, Ryan he looked at both of us, and he was like, ‘Let’s give Meb a little bit of distance. I think he’s up there with JB. (Josphat Boit).’

“So we kept it slow. I don’t know if that did anything to help. But those guys had to work to catch Meb. I think Ryan was really smart to (think to) be able to say that (in the middle of the race).”

It was a selfless and cunning move by Hall, who valued a victory for his country over a better individual performance. (He finished 20th.)

At one point about halfway through the race, Hall's work helped Kefelzighi to a 1-minute, 21-second advantage over the pack. By the time runners made their final push, Kefelzighi had built an insurmountable lead.

(H/T to the Washington Post)

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Last month, the National Labor Relations Board surprised just about everyone when it granted the Northwestern University football players the right to unionize, if they choose.

But what does that mean for Northwestern? And what does it mean for the future of college football?

Go U Northwestern

The NLRB's ruling made a big splash, but it's actually very narrow. For starters, the decision applies only to private schools. Not many play big-time college football, rarely more than one per major conference. The short list includes Duke, Rice, Vanderbilt, Stanford and USC. Further, the Northwestern players still have to vote to unionize this Friday, which seems far from a given. If the players do, in fact, vote to unionize, the university will appeal the NLRB's decision.

But graduating senior quarterback Kain Colter, who has led the charge, has been very shrewd, and will be hard to dismiss. I got to know him while researching my latest book, Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, and can tell you he's one of the most impressive young men in the game, on and off the field.

In 2012, the season I followed for the book, Colter was Northwestern's leading returner in passing, receiving and rushing, surely the only player in the country who could claim that. He is also a psychology major who's taking the pre-requisites for medical school, which is why he often had to miss summer workouts to attend afternoon labs. The group he's formed -- the somewhat redundant College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) -- is also wisely not asking for money, but post-graduate health care for injuries suffered while playing. That seems like it will be pretty hard for any university -- which were created to improve the lives of its students, after all -- to argue against that. (To its credit, Northwestern -- which has a strong record of taking care of its athletes -- has not.)

Because he's a graduating senior, Colter is working for those who will come after him -- while potentially jeopardizing his appeal to the NFL teams who might draft him this spring. He's also underscored that Northwestern has been very good to him, from President Morton Schapiro to athletic director Jim Phillips to his coach, Pat Fitzgerald.

Northwestern is a model of how college athletics should be done, from its guaranteed scholarships to its 97-percent graduation rate. On the 2012 Wildcat squad I followed, offensive lineman Patrick Ward ran 6-foot7 and 320 pounds, "but his most impressive stat is his 3.94 in mechanical engineering," Schapiro told me. "I'm hoping he goes to the NFL, but if not, he'll be the world's largest engineer."

Because Northwestern's players are in a better position than most, and their coach is very unlikely to exact revenge on those who vote to unionize, some have argued the players have a noblesse oblige, if you will, to take a stand for those players whose careers would be in jeopardy if they tried. If so, Northwestern's administration might not be blamed for feeling no good deed goes unpunished. Privately, they are said to be unhappy with Colter for not coming to them first before going to the NLRB, and the message boards indicate the Northwestern alums are less than thrilled to see their school depicted as something it certainly is not: A football factory.

The Future Of College Football

So what's going to happen next? Anybody who claims they really know is either stupid or silly or both. We have never been here before. But we do know a few things already.

First, what CAPA is asking for is exactly what the NCAA, the leagues and the schools should have been providing for decades anyway: Health care for injuries student-athletes sustained while playing for their schools. In other words, the same protection the universities give their employees who are injured on the job -- and few jobs are more dangerous than football.

While they're at it, the NCAA should end the very cynical policy of allowing one-year scholarships. That's right: When an athlete gets a scholarship, it's not automatically a four- or five-year deal. The school can choose to renew each athlete's scholarship on a year-by-year basis, leaving him entirely at the mercy of the coach. For years, the NCAA required schools to offer only one-year scholarships, and only recently permitted schools the option of offering truly "full" scholarships, good for four years.

At an upright school like Northwestern, the players don't have much to worry about. The administration chose to offer only four- and five-year scholarships as soon as the NCAA let them, and in practice did so for decades anyway. But at too many other schools, the coaches exploit this shady arrangement every season.

A scholarship should automatically cover the players' entire education, even if their careers end due to injuries or disappointing play, so long as they're upholding their end of the deal. And they should keep that scholarship until they earn their degree, even after their eligibility runs out. It's difficult to finish a bachelor's degree while working 40-plus hours a week on your sport -- and that's what it takes, no matter what the NCAA claims.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner is a serious student, who asks more questions per hour than the rest of his classmates combined. I have seen this in person. He does very well in class, though not as well as he'd like. When I asked him for my previous book what he would be if he wasn't the Michigan quarterback, he thought about it, then said, "An 'A' student."

If the NCAA is serious about the "student" part of "student-athlete," now would be a great time to prove it.

In light of the already obscene 750-percent increase in Division I head coaches' salaries the past three decades, the NCAA should also ban the practice of paying bonuses to head coaches, assistant coaches and even athletic directors for milestones the players themselves achieve. Last month, when Ohio State wrestler Logan Stieber won his third consecutive national title without a loss -- an incredible feat -- his athletic director, Gene Smith, automatically received an $18,000 bonus for Stieber's thousands of hours of work. Stieber, of course, couldn't take an extra dime.

Doesn't the non-profit NCAA find that outrageous?

The NCAA has greatly reduced the practice of "oversigning," but it still permits it on the margins. "Oversigning" occurs when unethical coaches promise more incoming freshmen scholarships than they have. When the players arrive on campus in August, the coaches conduct what amounts to an on-campus try-out to whittle their numbers down to the 25 scholarships they actually are permitted to give out. The "cut" players go home, having already turned down offers from other schools, and try to pick up the pieces.

If the NCAA rights these wrongs, I'd bet Colter and company – who didn't have to deal with these practices themselves -- call their efforts a success, and drop their campaign.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

And there are good reasons why they might. Most college athletes are actually getting a pretty good deal. In my previous book, Three and Out, I calculated that an out-of-state, fifth-year senior at Michigan's free tuition, meals and travel come to at least $580,000 – and that doesn't count the cost of academic counseling and tutoring, strength and conditioning, or athletic training, not to mention the cost of those facilities, which is skyrocketing.

At Northwestern, where tuition runs a cool $63,000 a year, the money spent on its athletes is higher still. If the student-athletes become employees, it's possible the IRS would require them to pay taxes on their scholarships, and all the other benefits they might receive.

Another element few seem to have considered is the impact this could have on other teams at Northwestern, and the Olympic sports in general. Title IX has a higher winning percentage than even Nick Saban's Alabama teams, and it is unlikely to lose this battle, either. Whatever the football players get, the softball players won't be far behind. It's worth noting that sports in which both genders play -- think ice hockey, soccer and baseball/softball -- women have a higher rate of concussions. Their need for health care is at least as great.

If the players do unionize, and become employees of their schools, I also wonder if their new identity will diminish the appeal of college sports. College fans aren't attracted to excellence. Any pro team can beat any college team, in any sport. They're attracted to romance. Even though the Detroit Lions at their worst could crush University of Michigan at its best, the Wolverines draw twice as many fans. If the magic bubble bursts, college football fans might decide to stop supporting the venture -- as they have started to do even at hardcore schools like Penn State and Michigan -- and then who's paying the growing bills for all this?

Both parties should be careful what they wish for, or the law of unintended consequences could obliterate the benefits both sides receive. I honestly don't think the NCAA or the players have given the long-term ramifications of their actions very much thought.

What's Next?

For now, the NLRB's decision is less important legally than it is symbolically -- more Rosa Parks than Brown v. Board of Education. For the first time, a group of players has formally organized, and been officially recognized. And in the process, they've discovered they have no power -- until they threaten to sit down, together. Then, suddenly, they have all of it.

I hope the people who run college athletics are paying attention. The recent concession to allow walk-on players to eat the same training table meals as their scholarship teammates is a start. But the NCAA's hearing has been impaired for so long, I wouldn't bet on it.

When NCAA President Mark Emmert responded to the specter of unionization by saying it "would blow up everything about the collegiate model of athletics," the typically tone-deaf leader probably didn't realize that is exactly what his critics have been hoping for.

The NCAA should do the right thing -- look out for their "student-athletes," and get its own house in order -- and do it now, or risk losing everything.

That might seem like an easy decision to you and me -- but that's why we don't run the NCAA.

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Golf enthusiasts have been aware of Jordan Spieth for some time.

The 20-year-old won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2009 and 2011, becoming the first person since Tiger Woods to accomplish that feat. Over the past year his world ranking has skyrocketed, culminating in an incredible performance at the Masters, where his T-2 finish was the best ever by someone his age.

But for much of the general public, the tournament in Augusta served as an introduction to Spieth, who may well be the world's next golfing superstar.

So, just who is this kid from Dallas? He's humble, that's for sure.

A recent Sports Illustrated profile notes that even after banking $4 million in 23 starts in 2013, and signing lucrative deals with Titleist and Rolex, Spieth still drove a 2008 Yukon with 110,000 miles on it. His only splurge last year, according to the story, was on Dallas Cowboys season tickets.

Spieth is also marketable. And in a sport with few young American stars, advertisers will be tripping over themselves to sign him.

“At 20, he can attract a younger demographic to the game, and has a squeaky-clean image that traditionalists can get behind,” Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising, told the Dallas Morning News. “Sure, it’d be nice if he had a little more charisma and uniqueness, but ‘20-year-old phenom’ will do just fine for now.”

And as for his future in the sport, it would be foolish to doubt Spieth after he's succeeded on every level. After his stellar amateur career, Spieth enrolled at Texas and led the Longhorns to the NCAA championship. He was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year and was a first team All-American.

Spieth turned pro at age 19 in December 2012, and in July 2013 he won the John Deere Classic, making him the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years. He was named 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after jumping more than 800 spots up the world rankings in the span of a few months.

Following a thrilling run at the Masters, in which he was leading eventual champion Bubba Watson on the final day, Spieth is a 25-to-1 favorite to win the U.S. Open.

As for Spieth's personal life, he is dating his high school sweetheart, Annie Verret. Here's why people are already calling her "stunning":

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As a longtime middle linebacker, A.J. Hawk knows a thing or two about calling the shots. The Green Bay Packers veteran is often charged with positioning his fellow defenders and providing the play assignments.

It turns out these skills have him well suited to the role of ordained minister.

As Jenny Vrentas writes in MMQB, Hawk, 30, registered with an online ministry and became ordained four years ago. This spring he presided over his first wedding, that of longtime friend and Packers assistant athletic trainer Nate Weir.

Weir and his wife, Leslie, had grown close to Hawk and his wife, Laura, and when Weir popped the question he asked Hawk if he'd be willing to do the honors at their ceremony.

"Hey, if you want me to do it, trust me, I'd love to,” Hawk told his buddy. “But I don’t know if you're serious.”

This being Hawk's first wedding, he spent countless hours preparing his script and reviewing it with his wife and father.

Hawk officiating the ceremony wasn't the only non-traditional part of the wedding, which also included a slow clap at one point and a stanza from a Grateful Dead song. Hawk opened the ceremony with this line from Jake Plummer's speech at the funeral of Pat Tillman:

“What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin? Not to me, it's not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you you’re right or wrong.”

It was only fitting that Hawk could help out his friend, as over the years Weir has worked wonders on Hawk and his teammates. Hawk has only missed two games in his eight-year career, and he works with Weir constantly on injury prevention. Hawk told Vrentas that after one of his minor offseason surgeries to repair a ligament on his finger, Weir texted or called every day to check in on him.

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During his 27-year Hall of Fame career, Nolan Ryan recorded 324 wins, seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts. A new biography by Rob Goldman, Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher, includes never-before-told anecdotes and personal recollections. Here is an excerpt.

Of all of Nolan Ryan's achievements, few garnered more attention than the 20-second skirmish between Ryan and veteran third baseman Robin Ventura in 1993. The fight has come to symbolize his Texas toughness, and it made Ryan a symbol of middle-age defiance.

Much has been made about the "Ventura Fight" but most don't realize its roots started three years earlier in Florida.

In the 1990s, Chicago's Craig Grebeck was one of baseball's smallest everyday players. Just 5'7", he compensated for his lack of stature with the attitude of Goliath.

During a spring training game against the Rangers in 1990, Grebeck hit a home run on the first pitch and pumped his fists triumphantly as he jogged around the bases. Sitting on the Rangers bench, Ryan stared at the Lilliputian and made a mental note.

A few months later the Rangers were at Comiskey Park. Ryan was on the mound, and Grebeck hit a home run off him. As he had in Florida, Grebeck whooped it up rounding the bases. When Ryan got back to the bench, he asked pitching coach Tom House, "Who is that boy?"

House told him Grebeck's name.

"How old is he?" asked Ryan next. “He looks like he's about 12."

"He's pretty young," said House.

"Well, I'm gonna put some age on the little squirt. He's swinging like he isn't afraid of me."

"Sure enough," recalls House, "next time up [in the teams' next meeting], plunk! Nolan hits him right in the friggin' back. Grebeck was 0-for the rest of the year off him."

Thus began three seasons of constant strife between the Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox.

"It didn't help," says House, "that Chicago hitting coach Walt Hriniak taught his hitters to cover the outside third of the plate. He even had his hitters dive toward the plate in order to cover the outside corner.

"That was encroaching on Ryan's turf. His fastball spent so much time on the outside half it could have taken up residence there. ‘Half the plate's yours, half is mine,' was Ryan's thinking. ‘you don't know what half I want. But if you're going to take away half of the plate that I want, you're gonna pay.'

"He hit a bunch of White Sox. They had a philosophy that didn't quite fit in with Nolan's philosophy, and we had three or four fights with them, because Nolan would pitch into hitters that were diving."

Robin Ventura disagrees. It wasn't batting stances that caused the friction, he says, but a good old-fashioned bean-ball war.

"Hriniak didn't have anything to do with it," Ventura claims. "At the time in baseball the zone was low and away, and that was where pitchers were getting you out. We weren't the only team doing it. It was the kind of pitch that was getting called, so you just had to be able to go out and get it."

In any case, altercations between the two teams accelerated:

  • August 17, 1990: Ryan hit Grebeck again in his first at-bat on the first pitch. Three innings later the Sox retaliated by hitting Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele.
  • September 6, 1991: Ryan hit Ventura in the back at Arlington.
  • August 2, 1993: Two days before the Ventura fight, Roger Pavlik of the Rangers hit Ron Karkovice. Chicago retaliated by hitting Dean Palmer twice and Mario Diaz once.

"We had a lot of going back and forth that season," says Ventura. "Guys were getting hit regularly, and it was just one of those things where something was going to eventually happen."

The night before the fight, on August 3, the White Sox manhandled the Rangers 11–6. Ryan was slated to start the following day against Alex Fernandez.

In the first inning, Ventura tagged Ryan for an RBI single. In the Rangers' half of the second, Fernandez hit Rangers leadoff batter Juan Gonzalez on a 2-2 pitch. When Ventura came up again in the third frame, Ryan's first pitch plunked him on the back.

"If you look at the replays, the ball wasn't really that far inside," says House. "It was just barely off the plate and it went off Ventura's back. Robin was starting toward first base when he abruptly turns and charges the mound instead. And the closer he got to Nolan, the bigger he looked. If you watch it in stop action, you can see Ryan's eyes were like a deer's in a headlight.

"So everybody was surprised by what Nolan did next: Bam! Bam! Bam! Three punches right on Ventura's noggin!"

Rangers catcher Pudge Rodriguez had undergone facial surgery for a fractured cheekbone 40 hours earlier and was wearing a big bandage. As the man closest to the action, he had an excellent perspective.

"Nolan Ryan didn't try to hit him," says Rodriguez. "He just tried to pitch in like everybody else, and it just got away. It was a very intense game. Robin Ventura had hit Ryan hard in the first inning, and [Ryan] was trying to keep him off the plate.

"Ventura charged to the mound but he didn't do a good job, and Nolan Ryan grabbed him and hit him pretty good. I was trying to hold [Ventura] off, but they were two big guys. I tried to cover myself because I have a scar on my face, and so I just grabbed [Ventura] from the back but that didn't do much."

Rangers shortstop Jeff Huson watched it unfold from the bench.

"All I could think about when it was happening was, What's Robin thinking?" Huson recalls. "You don't charge the highest authority -- that's just the way it is. I was shocked when he went out there. I remember Nolan saying that early in his career Dave Winfield had charged the mound and he didn't do anything about it, and later he vowed that if anybody ever charged the mound again he was going to take the offensive."

To this day, Ventura maintains it was no big deal and that his reaction was pure instinct.

"Everybody on both teams knew [Ryan] was hitting guys, and the mentality on our club was when he hits us, we're gonna hit one of them. So whoever got hit, I'm sure he would have went. He had hit Grebeck on purpose and he had hit me on purpose. It was going to happen no matter what. It just happened that Ryan was well known. Had it been anyone else, it would have all been forgotten.

"Nobody said 'you had to go, charge the mound,' and we didn't talk about it beforehand. There was so much friction going on between us that eventually whoever got hit was probably going to charge anyway."

Ryan's recollection of the incident echoes House's.

"There was a buildup between the Rangers and the White Sox, and what Tom said was accurate about them diving into the ball," he said. "But Grebeck, their little center fielder, had had a lot of success off me and he was diving into the fastball, so I hit him one time. Not with the intent of hitting him -- I was trying to get him off the plate and back him off, and I hit him.

"Earlier in the year I had a fight with Chicago over them hitting one of our guys, but certainly there hadn't been any issues between Robin Ventura and myself. In that particular game, his first time up I left a fastball out over the plate and Ventura hit a line drive to left field, so I felt like I had to get him off the plate. Next time I came in on him and hit him right behind the shoulder blade, but it wasn't on purpose."

Regarding the rumored bounty supposedly put on him by the Sox, Ryan says, "I heard there was some kind of a vendetta, but do I know that for a fact or not? I don't know that for certain. As far as I know, Robin just reacted."

When Ventura charged toward the mound, he slowed down just enough to run into a Ryan headlock. Nolan got in four quick right hands on the top of Ventura's head. His fifth and final punch got Ventura square in the face.

Both benches emptied, and the main combatants disappeared under the surge of humanity. Ventura eventually emerged unscathed, but Ryan remained trapped beneath the pile and was nearly unconscious when help came from an unexpected quarter.

"All I remember is that I couldn't breathe," says Ryan. "I thought I was going to black out and die, when all of a sudden I see two big arms tossing bodies off of me. It was [Chicago's] Bo Jackson. He had come to my rescue, and I’m awful glad he did, because I was about to pass out. I called him that night and thanked him."

As two of the game’s biggest stars, Jackson and Ryan were natural rivals. Their friendly feud began in 1989, when Bo was with the Royals. "I had 3-2 on him," recalls Ryan. "I knew if I threw him a curve he'd probably chase it, but instead I threw him a fastball up to see if I could get it by him. As soon as it left my hand I knew I was in trouble, 'cause I knew it was gonna be down. When he hit it, I had to turn to see where it went because I knew he really got it. It turns out he hit it two-thirds up the way in straight-away center field in old Arlington Stadium."

"I was watching Bo as he went around," adds House, "and boy, it was impressive. Two superstars in the moment, and as Bo is jogging around first base, Nolan makes eye contact and Bo makes a gesture like, I gotcha! and Nolan gives him a look like, What the hell is he talking about? "Well, the next time Bo's up, first pitch is a curveball, and Bo was like spaghetti-legged. Nolan struck him out six more times after that. I think he faced Bo 20 times, and struck him out 12 times."

The day after Jackson’s tape-measure home run, when Ryan came out for stretching at 4:30, nobody was on the field.

"I'm thinking, I may have the time wrong, when all of a sudden I hear way off in the distance, ‘Hey, Nolan!’" he recalled. "I look out and the whole team is sitting in the bleachers where the ball landed, and they’re waving at me. They were making sure I wasn't going to forget it."

In a 1990 home game against Kansas City, Jackson led off the second inning with a one-hopper back to the mound that caught Ryan square in the mouth.

"Nolan was more embarrassed than hurt," recalls trainer Bill Ziegler. "He was bleeding like a stuck pig. So in between innings the Rangers team doctor, Dr. Mycoskie, stitched him up. He pitched the rest of the game with black stitches coming out of his lip and blood all over the place."

Kansas City’s George Brett later said, "Nolan’s scary under normal conditions, but facing him when he was all bloody was another level of intimidation altogether."

The Jackson-Ryan rivalry was rooted in mutual respect, so it wasn’t so surprising that Bo came to his rescue on August 4.

Ruth Ryan was awfully glad he did.

"After Ventura rushed the mound, everyone in the park, including my kids, went wild," recalls Ruth, who was seated in the family section. "When Nolan didn't come out of the pile, I got concerned. With his bad back, sore ribs, and other ailments, he could easily have suffered a career-ending injury."

When Nolan finally did emerge, he was visibly winded and his jersey was unbuttoned. Otherwise, he seemed to be intact. But a few moments later there was more pushing and shoving and the fight resumed. This time, Ryan and Ventura remained on the fringes, but some other players really got into it. Rangers coach Mickey Hatcher had a bloody gash above his eye, and Chicago manager Gene Lamont was taking on all comers. Several White Sox players taunted Ryan and he considered rejoining the fray, but the umpires restrained him.

When it was finally over, Ryan remained in the game and Ventura and Lamont were ejected.

Of all people, Craig Grebeck, whose gesture somewhat precipitated the tension three years earlier, came off the bench to pinch-run for Ventura. Ryan promptly picked him off first.

In a show of stubborn focus, Ryan pitched four more innings. When he left at the end of the seventh, he had struck out five and given up three hits, with one earned run.

Texas won the game 5–2, but the score was really irrelevant.

"It was a split-second thing," Ryan told reporters after the game about his brawl with Ventura. "All you can do is react. you don't have time to figure out your options."

Lamont believed his player getting hit wasn't an accident, and admitted his getting tossed was an act of protest after Ryan was allowed to remain in the game.

"I think our guys felt Nolan hit guys on purpose and that was probably part of the reason Robin charged the mound, and they didn't like it," says Lamont. "I'm also positive there wasn't a vendetta. If there was one, it was without me knowing about it, and if that was the case our players would have been out there a lot quicker than they were."

Leaving the park, Ryan figured he'd heard the end of it, but at the postgame dinner at a nearby restaurant, Reid Ryan and his friends couldn't stop rehashing the action. Brother Reese had videotaped the game, and when the family returned home, he entertained all comers by replaying the brawl over and over.

When Reese asked his dad, who was in the kitchen sorting the mail, if he wanted to view the fight, he responded with a firm no.

He was in a distinct minority. Broadcast networks were showing the fight continuously, and the late-night talk shows picked it up. The next morning the melee was front-page news.

"Remember the Alamo!" George W. Bush proclaimed in the Dallas Daily News. "I saw Nolan square away like a bull and thought, This guy [Ventura] has lost his senses. It was a fantastic moment for the Rangers and elevated [Ryan’s] legend."

Chicago's Jack McDowell insisted Ryan was culpable and was pleased that Ventura charged him. "Ryan had been throwing at batters forever, and no one ever had the guts to do anything about it," the Sox pitcher complained. "Someone had to do it. [Ryan] pulled that stuff wherever he goes."

Fans across America were polarized. Ryan was their perpetual good guy in the white hat, and some didn't know what to make of their hero throwing punches in the middle of the infield.

Arguments raged at dinner tables across America about whether Ryan did the right thing. The Dallas Morning News said it was bad for baseball. Fight Gives Game a Big Black Eye, argued its headline.

When ESPN's Peter Gammons insisted that Ryan hit Ventura on purpose, the pitcher had heard enough.

"If Robin had stopped before he got to the mound, I wouldn't have attacked him," Ryan explained to ESPN. "But when he came out and grabbed me, I had to react to the situation."

Ryan thought the incident would eventually fade, but as time has passed interest in that dustup has never subsided. The Ventura fight has become a part of American folklore, an integral part of Ryan's legacy. Photographs of the fight are as common as postage stamps, clips of it are shown every season, and the clip has been viewed more than half a million times on YouTube.

For almost two decades the two key combatants never crossed paths. Closure finally came in 2012, when Ventura was named manager of the White Sox. Early that season, Ryan and Ventura discreetly met in the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington tunnel. Ryan congratulated Robin on getting the manager's job; Ventura gave Ryan kudos for his recent successes in Texas.

"I have nothing but respect for Robin and wished him the best," said Ryan.

A man of his word, as team president Ryan issued a standing order that footage from the fight -- previously shown before Rangers games -- not be played on the scoreboard.

Ventura, who was suspended two games over the incident, harbors no grudges.

"I don't sit around thinking, Oh, my gosh, I should have done different, or whatever. I do get tired of talking about it, though. Mostly it’s press from Texas saying we want to talk to you about it."

Ventura has always been known for his class and affability, and is highly respected in baseball circles. Here's hoping people remember him for something other than being the guy who got in a brawl with Nolan Ryan.

-- Excerpted by permission from Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher by Rob Goldman. Copyright (c) 2014 by Rob Goldman. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

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Cal Ripken Jr.'s ironman streak has finally been broken, and not by a baseball player. Or an athlete in any sport.

No, it is longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta who has surpassed Ripken in consecutive games. Bavetta, who has not missed an assignment since 1974, officiated his 2,633rd consecutive game this week. Ripken's famous streak ended at 2,632 games in 1998.

Bavetta, 74, was honored by the NBA before Wednesday's Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks game.

"Well it means that I am here and alive and happy," Bavetta said of his streak. "And it doesn't end here as they say. After tonight there is another game. That is what we (do). I am just blessed that the ironman streak has been broken here (at Madison Square Garden), I couldn't ask for something any better."

Bavetta has overcome his share of obstacles to make it 40 years without missing a game. Flight cancellations due to weather meant Bavetta sometimes had to rent cars to drive from city to city. Once he was even punched in the nose while trying to break up a fight between Jalen Rose and Patrick Ewing at Madison Square Garden. The next night he worked a Nets game.

NBA refs work 82 games each year, averaging about 12 a month. So Bavetta, who is already a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, has been officiating games since before nearly all of the current NBA players were born. He has worked 270 playoff games, 27 NBA Finals games as well as the 1992 Summer Olympics.

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By Bill Walton

As I travel this great country working as a broadcaster calling basketball games, I always get asked, "How did it feel winning NCAA Championships and NBA Championships?" I always tell them that it is more important to be a champion in life than a champion in sports. As my former Coach John Wooden would tell me, "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." This has been something that has stuck with me my entire career both playing basketball and now as a sports broadcaster but more importantly as a person.

Coach Wooden taught me and this whole world so many valuable lessons, and while a number of people might think of the incredible sayings Coach Wooden said are just for sports and athletes, they would be incredibly mistaken. In fact, I strongly believe that Coach Wooden's sayings are more geared towards everyone in life than even sports and athletes.

There's an important adage: Be the best you can be. The same principle applies here: You have to see yourself as a champion long before you actually become one. While it's a major advantage to be born with an abundance of talent or physical gifts, what will set you apart is your attitude ... your determination ... and your drive.

I was so fortunate to learn the core lessons of being a better person and a better champion my coach at UCLA John Wooden. Coach Wooden had many famous sayings and quotes but I have chosen 16 that help define me and what I strive to remember and live by each day. I believe they would be valuable life lessons for you to live by as well:

      1. "Be True To Yourself"
      2. "Help Others"
      3. "Be Quick, Don't Hurry"
      4. "Be Prepared and Be Honest"
      5. "Failure Is Not Fatal, But Failure To Change Might Be"
      6. "Discipline Yourself And Others Won't Need To"
      7. "If You Are Not Making Mistakes, Then You Aren't Doing Anything. I'm Positive A Doer Makes Mistakes"
      8. "Make Each Day Your Masterpiece"
      9. "The Main Ingredient Of Stardom Is The Rest Of The Team"
      10. "Do Not Let What You Can't Do Interfere With What You Can Do"
      11. "It's Not So Important Who Starts The Game But Who Finishes It"
      12. "If You Don't Have The Time To Do It Right, When Will You Have The Time To Do It Over?"
      13. "You Can't Let Either Praise Or Criticism Get To You ... It Is A Weakness To Get Caught Up In Either One"
      14. "Winning Takes Talent. To Repeat Takes Character."
      15. "The People Who Turn Out The Best Are Those People Who Make The Best Out Of The Way Things Turn Out"
      16. "Success Comes From Knowing That You Did Your Best To Become The Best That You Are Capable Of Becoming"

Think how better this world would be if everyone strived to live their life with these principles. Think about how teams would perform if each player on the team lived their life with these principles. That particular team would be unbeatable.

Most of Coach Wooden's quotes are part of the reason his Pyramid of Success became so recognized with winning in life and in sports. It is also a major reason I won the championships I did in the NCAA and NBA, and more importantly a major factor of who I am today as a man.

During my time at UCLA and the 13 years I spent in the pros with the Portland Trail Blazers, Clippers and Boston Celtics, I learned the importance of team chemistry, everyone working together to be the best, and to helping your teammates be the best they can be. Having won back-to-back national championships at UCLA and then two NBA World Championships with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics, I learned firsthand about the hard work, dedication, tireless training and commitment that not only I needed to contribute, but every member of each of the teams I was on, had to contribute for us to have the success we did. When a group of people can come together and be unified and committed to one goal the results can be limitless.

In closing, while I was a collegiate and professional athlete most of my career and now serve as a sports broadcaster, I absolutely believe that Coach Wooden's quotes and sayings were mottos for me to not only compete with athletically but to live my life as well. The knowledge and incredible pieces of wisdom that Coach Wooden shared with me personally and the whole world were truly magical and something all of us can use every day To Become A True Champion and a Better Person.

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If someone in Buffalo hadn't looked at a calendar on Sunday, he or she might have thought it was fall.

That's because hundreds of Buffalo Bills fans donned team gear and showed up to a tailgate to honor the memory of Ralph Wilson Jr., the only owner in team history, who died on March 25. Grills were brought out, footballs were tossed and, yes, there was even some snow from the night before.

“This is the city in a nutshell,” Marc Deschamps, a season-ticket holder, told the Buffalo News. “Ralph Wilson died and Buffalo fans get together to celebrate his life. It’s a great way to remember him.”

The event was created and organized by a group of Bills fans and held in a lot behind the stadium named for Wilson. About 1,000 people showed up, including team CEO Russ Brandon. Brandon does not usually get the chance to tailgate with fans, and he was blown away by the love shown for his predecessor.

“The outpouring of support has been unbelievable. The tribute and response to Mr. Wilson’s legacy is incredible,” Brandon said. “Our fans are incredible and passionate, and it’s very therapeutic. I’ve had a smile on my face this entire time I’ve been here.”

Below are some photos from the event:

Wilson, who was 95 when he died, founded the team in 1959 with a $25,000 investment.

(H/T to The Buzzer)

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One clever Columbia University student countered a shameful hustle with some hustle of his own, and he ended up nabbing a scammer who tried to sell him counterfeit tickets to the Sweet Sixteen games at Madison Square Garden.

The New York Post reports on the story of a 20-year-old finance major at Columbia who headed to Madison Square Garden for the first time to see the Sweet Sixteen doubleheader. He saw a Craigslist ad shopping two tickets for $210 each, which were pretty cheap for an event with record-breaking ticket prices. Still, the student, who did not want to be bought the tickets for him and a buddy. When they tried to use the tickets at the gate, they were turned away.

Thinking quickly, the friends made a plan to snag the swindler. They had his phone number and called him back to say they needed two more tickets.

Once they met up with the seller again, the man at first didn't recognize the Columbia student and his friend. But then he showed the scammer the fake ticket and demanded his money back. The thief reached into his pocket as if to grab something but then turned and ran.

The student, a track standout, chased after the swindler.

“I was running after him screaming, ‘Help! Help!’ ” the student told the Post. “He was much bigger than me. But I got him.”

The student was assisted by a pedestrian who helped corral the thief as he ran away. Together the pedestrian and the student held the swindler down some 17 blocks away from Madison Square Garden until police came. They arrested Lionel Moye, 23, and charged him with possession of a forged instrument and assault for allegedly biting the man who helped hold him down.

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New England quarterback Tom Brady was among the civilians in the vicinity of the deadly Boston fire on Wednesday, as his Back Bay residence is just four doors down from the apartment building where the blaze occurred.

Brady was photographed checking out the damage, and he later spoke eloquently about his gratitude for the first responders.

"I looked out of the front of our house and could see the flames, and then kind of went back to my room, and then went back about two minutes later and just saw it growing, and at that point I had gone to the back part of my house and from my deck I could see kind of what they were up against," Brady said in an interview on WEEI. "At that point, all the fire engines were coming down the street. I was watching for obviously a long time, and then at one point I saw a pretty big explosion of flames and a lot of the firemen were coming out of the building, and that’s when I really got nervous."

Brady thanked the firefighters for their work and said his life was never in jeopardy, but just to be safe he and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, moved their kids to a neighbor's home down the street.

"We as athletes think that we're heroes, but when you witness firsthand what I saw yesterday, you realize who the real heroes are in this world," Brady said during his radio appearance. "It's the people that work hard to protect our lives and protect our safety and our freedoms in America -- certainly the firefighters and Boston Police and the state troopers. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart."

The three-time Super Bowl champion also posted this note about the fire, which killed Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr. and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy and left 13 firefighters injured:

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