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Regan Smith’s car in the Brickyard 400 will honor Aurora shooting victims

Sprint Cup Series driver Regan Smith will pay tribute to the victims of last week’s senseless tragedy in Aurora, Colo., by driving a custom version of his No. 78 car in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Among the design features on the black Chevy’s exterior are a blue ribbon on the hood, “Aurora, CO” and the names of the 12 victims on the rear quarterpanels, and the message “For Those Lost, Those Injured and Countless Acts of Bravery 7/20/12″ on the back. Smith’s team, Furniture Row Racing, is based in Denver.

Last Friday, the day of the shooting, we saw another respectful tribute to the victims when the Denver Nuggets’ summer league team wore black headbands for their contest against the Trail Blazers’ squad.

H/T From the Marbles

Morris Almond really wants to take Lolo Jones’ virginity

Leading up to the London Olympics, Lolo Jones‘ virginity was one of the most widely discussed story lines, because apparently these are the things that matter these days.

While Jones undoubtedly continues to carry the reputation of being “That Virgin Athlete Not Named Tim Tebow,” she still has her share of admirers, particularly the New York Jets on behalf of Tebow. So far as we know, a Tebow-Jones link up has yet to happen.

Meanwhile, Jones, quite the comedienne on Twitter, is still looking for her Mr. Right. But perhaps she should get in touch with NBA free agent Morris Almond, who so romantically tweeted about his attraction to the Olympic hurdler on Friday:

He seems harmless.

Photos: @FreeMoAlmond/Robert Deutsch-USA Today Sports

Mario Balotelli would be a UFC fighter if not a soccer player, because why not

In conjunction with the release of Manchester City’s new kits (soccer speak for “jerseys”), Umbro, the kits’ manufacturer, interviewed some of the Premier League champion’s players. And, because the folks at Umbro are no dummies, Mario Balotelli was one of those interviewed.

The questions Balotelli was asked weren’t far off of ones you’d hear on a first date or in a Larry King interview: Which musician do you like? (Drake!) Why wear No. 45? (lucky number!). But when he was asked about what sports he’d play if he weren’t a soccer player, the never-disappointing Balotelli, well, didn’t disappoint. Without hesitation, he said he’d be a UFC fighter.

“Probably I would want to do UFC,” he said with the most confident look on his face. “Yeah. I really love it.”

So, that’s now settled. Laugh all you want, but you can’t deny Balotelli has the same inflamed ego and misfit personality to be an MMA fighter.

But Balotelli only didn’t answer the question with “Batman” because he hasn’t seen the new Batman movie yet. Yes, being Batman is a sport if Mario Balotelli damn well says it is.

H/T Dirty Tackle

Rodney Erickson: Penn State escaped four-year death penalty

In an interview with ESPN, Penn State president Rodney Erickson acknowledged that the school was almost given a historic four-year “death penalty” by the NCAA.

Speaking on “Outside the Lines” Wednesday, Erickson recalled being told by NCAA president Mark Emmert last Tuesday that a majority of the NCAA’s leadership wanted to shut down the university’s football program for four years.

“Well, that’s a pretty tough number to swallow,” Erickson said he thought at the time. “It’s unprecedented. It’s a blow to the gut; there’s no doubt about that … I couldn’t agree to that at all.”

Almost immediately after the Freeh Investigation’s findings were released two weeks ago, many called for the NCAA, if it were to get involved at all (no given), to give the program the death penalty. The length of the death penalty, however, was always a matter of opinion. No athletic program ever given the death penalty got it for more that two seasons (SMU’s infamous two-year death sentence included one self-imposed year). That four seasons was the preferred punishment speaks volumes to the degree of egregiousness Penn State acted in the NCAA’s eyes. More from ESPN:

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Rival coaches reportedly trying to poach Penn State players from parking lot

When the NCAA handed down its severe punishments to Penn State on Monday, it made sure to allow for any football player in the program to transfer without having to sit out the customary year before playing again. So caring of the NCAA to keep the athlete, oh, I’m sorry, student-athlete’s interests in mind.

That being the case, it’s now essentially open season for opposing coaches hoping to convince Nittany Lions players to leave Penn State and join their decidedly sanction-less programs. On Wednesday, however, over 30 players publicly vowed to stay with the program. It’s still unclear if that joint declaration is going to deter the coaches from other schools staking out on campus hoping to catch the ear of any player they come across.

Yes, that’s right, rival coaches are actually hanging out in the Penn State football facility’s parking lot waiting to accost prospective yet current-Nittany Lions players.

“Our players are in our building right now and they don’t want to leave the building because there are coaches from other schools in the parking lot waiting to see them,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. Here’s more from ESPN:

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Carlos Gomez probably wants this at-bat back (Video)

Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez thought he had himself a leadoff homer against the Phillies on Wednesday. So sure in fact that he confidently trotted around the bases without giving any second thought to the ball he hit pretty darn close to the foul pole actually being a foul ball.

This is why it was hilarious seeing Gomez’s reaction after he had already rounded third base when found out his apparent eighth home run of the year was indeed foul. The Philly crowd gave him a hard time about it, as they well should have.

So, how did Gomez recover from this embarrassing turn of events? By striking out looking. Not one of the more sterling at-bats anybody’s ever seen, but when you’re Carlos Gomez, there’s been worse.

Penn State fan compares NCAA sanctions to 9/11: ‘I just saw planes crashing into towers’ (Video)

When the NCAA leveled its crushing penalties against Penn State on Monday, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Nittany Lions fan that wasn’t totally crestfallen. But perhaps none were more devastated than Tom and Sally Price of Factoryville, Pa., who have been to every home football game since 1986. How upset were they? Well, good ol’ Tom compared the punishments to the greatest national tragedy the United States has ever seen.

“I can’t put my arms around it. To me, it was our 9/11 today,” Tom told WNEP. “I just saw planes crashing into towers.”

Um.

And you all thought talking about that stupid Joe Paterno statue instead of Sandusky’s victims was insensitive.

H/T Deadspin