Joe Santoro: Lance Armstrong is athlete of the decade, not Tigers Woods | SierraSun.com

Joe Santoro: Lance Armstrong is athlete of the decade, not Tigers Woods

Joe Santoro
Sports fodder for a Friday morning ...

The Associated Press has no clue about how to select an athlete of the decade. Tiger Woods? Really? Which part of the word athlete donand#8217;t you understand? Weand#8217;re talking golf. If great grandfathers and grandmothers with two artificial knees and an artificial hip to go along with a pacemaker can play it while drinking a mimosa and smoking a cigarette, itand#8217;s not a sport. Lance Armstrong was the clear-cut choice as athlete of the decade. The guy beat cancer. He won six Tour De France cycling marathons, the toughest sporting event known to man (and Europeans). Heck, the fire hydrant and tree Tiger wrecked with his car on Thanksgiving also voted for Armstrong.

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What was the greatest sporting event in Northern Nevada this decade? Thatand#8217;s easy. It was the Nevada Wolf Pack menand#8217;s basketball teamand#8217;s two victories in the NCAA Tournament on March 18 and 20, 2004 over Michigan State and Gonzaga to qualify for the Sweet 16. No sporting event in the decade (maybe ever) excited this area as much as those two victories. Those two victories, more than any other in history, put the entire university on the national sporting map. It is now almost six years later and the program is still living off of those two victories.

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The UNLV Rebels definitely made an interesting hire for their football top job in Montanaand#8217;s Bobby Hauck. Hauck, 80-17 at Montana the past seven years, will definitely give the Rebels a competitiveness and toughness that program hasnand#8217;t seen since, well, maybe ever. Hauck is clearly not a guy who will be content to stare up at the neon, collect his fat paycheck, eat for free at the buffets and wait until he gets fired or retires like the last dozen or so Rebel coaches. Something tells me the Fremont Cannon game is going to have a lot more intensity coming from the south end of the state in the next few years. But why would Hauck, an up-and-coming coach, want to coach at UNLV? The Rebels are a coachand#8217;s graveyard, a place where head coachand#8217;s careers go to die.

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The Wolf Pack basketball teamand#8217;s most valuable player over the first dozen games has to be sixth man Ray Kraemer. Starters Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson, Joey Shaw, Brandon Fields and Dario Hunt have all been solid to spectacular at times and all deserve to be in the starting lineup. But Kraemer, who played each game the last two years on average about as long as it takes to walk from Peccole Park to Mackay Stadium, is the teamand#8217;s most improved player. Kraemer, right now the Packand#8217;s only consistent player off the bench, is the teamand#8217;s best pure shooter. And the 6-foot-4 guard combines his ability to hit the open jumper with an all-out hustle on defense that is contagious.

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Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress has to be the most naïve man in America. What, exactly, did he think he was getting with Brett Favre? The second coming of Gus Frerotte? Favre, a guy who has played quarterback since the leather helmet days, likes to call audibles at the line of scrimmage. Imagine that. Chris Ault lets Colin Kaepernick call audibles. It’s what a quarterback is supposed to do. Favre has always ignored his coach’s plays. He’s a guy, after all, who calls audibles in his head in the middle of a play, let alone before the ball is snapped at the line of scrimmage. The Vikings sold their purple and yellow souls to Favre last summer. Childress needs to just enjoy the ride.

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The difference between the NFL and Major League Baseball? Well, hardly anyone has noticed this season that Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans has a chance to break Eric Dickersonand#8217;s rushing record of 2,105 yards. Johnson needs 376 yards over his next two games to break the record. If you are old enough to remember a world without cell phones, the internet or sports starsand#8217; sex scandals, youand#8217;ll never forget the moment when O.J. Simpson became the first to go over 2,000 yards in 1973, or when Dickerson broke the record in 1983. The rushing record is the equivalent of baseballand#8217;s single-season home run record. And we all were all excited to boo or cheer when that happened, even though we knew the guy who broke the record was cheating.

and#8212; Joe Santoro writes a weekly column for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.