James Rodriguez hugs manhandled pitch invader during Real Madrid presentation, prompts copycat

Having completed his 80 million move from Monaco to Real Madrid, World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez was presented at the Santiago Bernabeu in front of about 46,000 fans on Tuesday. Wearing the No. 10 shirt left vacant when Mesut Ozil departed last summer, Rodriguez kicked balls into the ravenous crowd, which was filled with yellow Colombia shirts.

One of those supporters decided to invade the pitch and hug his hero, which quickly resulted in security staff violently dragging him to the ground. Rodriguez didn’t appreciate the aggressiveness with which they did their job, so he tried to calm the situation by hugging the pitch invader a second time and giving him a ball as he escorted him away.

Seeing how lovely Rodriguez was to the man, another pitch invader attempted to bum rush the Colombian star just as the commotion was starting die down. He too got a ball for his efforts, but not much more.

The incident was reminiscent of Rodriguez’s new teammate Cristiano Ronaldo’s attempt to protect a pitch invader with hugs in Miami last year. I guess when Real Madrid spend an obscene amount of money on a player, they feel the least they can do is give out a few free hugs every now and then.


- – - – - – -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter!

British Open ratings down despite a lot of young names being involved

While the new generation in golf might be great at pumping their own brands and wearing flashy outfits, it isn’t translating in viewership, at least not this past weekend at Royal Liverpool.

The final round of the 2014 British Open was the lowest since ESPN took over broadcasting the championship in 2009 and was down 26 percent from last year’s incredible finish by Phil Mickelson to claim his only Claret Jug.

Despite Rory McIlroy making history at Royal Liverpool and both Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia making charges in that final round, the numbers showed what has continued to be a trend this year in the major championships.

The Masters struggled because of a fireworks-free back nine, while the U.S. Open was an 18-hole coronation for Martin Kaymer, who was never really pushed as he entered Sunday at Pinehurst with a five-shot lead.

If the U.S. Open had the excuse of a blowout combined with other options including the World Cup, the British Open was practically alone on Sunday in terms of big sporting events yet couldn’t even beat out Louis Oosthuizen blowing out the field at St. Andrews or Darren Clarke shocking the world with his win in 2011.

So what is the issue?

The Saturday finish by Rory McIlroy didn’t help, making two eagles over his final three holes to extend his lead to six shots heading into the final round. It also didn’t help that the return of Tiger Woods produced very little over the final 54 holes.

Woods might have started off hot with that opening round 69, but he played his final three rounds 9-over, beating just three players who made the cut at Hoylake.

The surprising dip in ratings compared to some of the other Opens is the names heading into the final round. McIlroy, Garcia, and Fowler finished at the top, but stars like Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott had chances to make a run before the last 18 holes kicked off.

If nothing else, all this tells us is that we really, really need a great PGA Championship to end this major championship season, because viewership has been abysmal this year considering the snoozers we’ve seen on Sunday, and if we get another blowout at Valhalla we have to wait a long time until we get to Augusta National in 2015, and who knows how healthy the big names will be, and who will be at the top of their game when casual sports fans turn away from golf for eight months.

Juggernaut Index, No. 22: The St. Louis Rams

Life in the NFC West ain’t easy, not with three of the NFL’s top six defenses lurking. But the Rams’ schedule in the year ahead isn’t actually as nightmarish as you might expect, at least for fantasy purposes. This team’s non-division opponents include a half-dozen squads that ranked in the bottom-third of the league defensively last season, including Dallas (dead-last) and Minnesota (next-to-last). Fantasy owners will also appreciate the fact that St. Louis doesn’t travel to Seattle until Week 17, after most league titles are decided.

So if you’re bullish on this franchise for 2014, it’s understandable. The Rams fortified both the offensive and defensive lines with high-end talent in the draft, plus the team has depth at the skill spots. If quarterback Sam Bradford can simply play at the level at which he opened 2013, prior to his ACL injury, then St. Louis should contend for … well, something. Probably not a division title. But something better than the usual sub-.500 season.

[Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: And so ended a not-terrible fantasy campaign for Sam Bradford (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)You don’t have to love the guy (or his receivers), but hopefully you can appreciate Bradford’s steady if unspectacular multi-season improvement. When he checked out last year, late in a Week 7 loss at Carolina, he was on pace for a 3,856-yard, 32-touchdown season. His completion percentage was a career-high 60.7, his passer rating was a career-high 90.9, and he’d thrown just four picks. He’d already delivered four multi-touchdown games. Bradford had been one of the league’s best passers off play-action according to Pro Football Focus, completing 34 of 52 attempts with six TD passes, averaging 9.7 Y/A.

Again, I’m not trying to convince you that Bradford is some sort of stealth superstar, but he’s not a train wreck, either. Remember, the Rams had a shot at every quarterback available in the 2014 NFL Draft — the team held the second and 13th overall picks — and they stuck with Bradford. Basically, they chose competence and continuity over the thrill of the unknown — a sensible approach for this franchise. I’m on board with Bradford, fantasy-wise, as a no-cost quarterback in a deep format.

St. Louis’ receiving corps is loaded with guys who seem like decent secondary options and role players, but a true No. 1 is conspicuously absent. You won’t find a Rams wideout among the position’s top-50 in the Yahoo consensus ranks. In plenty of standard-size fantasy leagues, none of the WRs or TEs on this team will be drafted. We’ll spend the year chasing St. Louis wideouts on the waiver wire, though, because every week a different player on this roster is going to give us 80 yards and a touchdown or two.

Second-year burner Tavon Austin is arguably the most interesting receiver in this uninteresting group. As a rookie, he gave us two big games (this one and this one), and almost nothing else. The hope is that OC Brian Schottenheimer will follow through on offseason promises to get creative with Austin’s usage

“Moving [Austin] around to a lot of different spots,” Schottenheimer said. “You’ll see us hand him the ball, do some different things. He’s playing so much faster just because he knows what we’re doing. He has the system down cold.”

…but we’re not necessarily talking about the game’s most inventive or successful coordinator. And at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, Austin is perhaps not built for an every-snap, do-it-all role. If you’re drafting him, think of this player as a weekly lottery ticket — you might get 3-5 big weeks, with 11-13 dud performances.

Chris Givens has flashed big-play ability in the past (though not last year), Brian Quick impressed during OTAs (not for the first time) and Austin Pettis had his moments last season (all in the first five weeks). But if you’re looking to take a flier on one of this team’s depth chart receivers, the guy I’d recommend is Kenny Britt, a longtime reclamation project for head coach Jeff Fisher. Britt has had a relatively quiet offseason by his standards — no injuries, no known legal issues, one regrettable video — and we know he’s a dangerous receiver when healthy and focused. He’s had hamstring issues in the past, and he was slow to recover from an ACL/MCL tear, but he’s also a guy with size (6-foot-3, 223) and big-play ability. As an end-of-draft upside pick, he has some appeal. St. Louis signed him to a one-year, low-dollar, no-risk deal, and you can do the same.

[Zac Stacy, preparing to break the plane against Tampa (Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports)I don’t need to tell you that tight end Jared Cook is the sleeper who inevitably sleeps, right? Great. Cook actually led this team in receptions and receiving yardage last season, but the totals weren’t anything special (51-671-5). He blew up in Week 1, finishing with seven catches for 141 yards and two TDs in a win over Arizona, then faded into mediocrity. Fantasy owners, you should really aim higher at tight end. Moving on…

Running back Zac Stacy was a revelation last season, a bruiser with yards-after-contact ability (2.45 per attempt) who invariably delivered us a useful fantasy day when given a significant workload. He also gave us a few run-of-the-year candidates, including this gem. I’m completely sold on Stacy, willing and eager to draft him at his current Yahoo ADP (22.4). I’ll concede that Stacy’s 3.9 YPC average doesn’t look great, but please note that he was at a respectable 4.1 before the Seahawks throttled the Rams in the finale last year.

St. Louis used a third-round pick on Auburn’s Tre Mason, a talented runner coming off a huge season (1,816 rush, 23 TDs) in the nation’s toughest conference. Mason is certainly a player of interest for dynasty drafters, and it’s easy to imagine him as a fantasy-relevant committee member down the road. But for now, he’s a back with everything to prove. Mason faces a significant system adjustment, plus he had ball-security and pass-pro red flags on the scouting report. He was rarely used as a receiver in college (19 career receptions), so this isn’t a case where we’d expect the player to quickly claim a passing-down role. In my eyes, he’s more handcuff than committee member. Again: I’ll take Stacy with few concerns, thank you very much.

The Rams D/ST was a legit fantasy weapon last season, as the team ranked third in the league in sacks (53.0), first in fumble recoveries (15) and fourth in defensive TDs (5). St. Louis added disruptive DT Aaron Donald to a line that already featured Robert Quin (19.0 sacks), Chris Long (8.5) and Michael Brockers (5.5), so opposing passers are in for some long, awful afternoons against this front. IDP drafters will want to target volume-tacklers James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree, too.

And that’s all I’ve got, gamers. Feel free to Ram It! in comments…

2013 team stats: 21.8 PPG (NFL rank 21), 210.0 pass YPG (29), 22 pass TDs (20), 109.5 rush YPG (19), 26.6 rush attempts per game (17), 31.6 pass attempts per game (28)

Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32. Oakland, 31. Miami, 30. Jacksonville, 29. NY Jets, 28. Tennessee, 27. Cleveland, 26. Baltimore, 25. Carolina, 24. Buffalo, 23. Tampa Bay

Milwaukee Bucks pick up former lottery pick, ex-Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall off waivers

When the Los Angeles Lakers waived Kendall Marshall last Friday to clear his unguaranteed 2014-15 salary from the books, freeing up cap space with which to complete other signings, they hoped to be able to bring him back into the fold if he cleared waivers. The Milwaukee Bucks, however, had other ideas, swooping in over the weekend to make a waiver claim on the 22-year-old point guard and add him to new head coach Jason Kidd’s backcourt mix.

The Bucks had plenty of money to spend, and will remain well under the 2014-15 salary cap of $63.065 million after being awarded Marshall’s league-minimum salary; they’ve essentially bought a $1 scratch-off ticket in the hope of cashing out with some big-time, bargain-priced playmaking.

After becoming the all-time ACC single-season assist leader during his sophomore year at North Carolina, Marshall was selected 13th overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the Phoenix Suns. He struggled mightily as a rookie, leading Phoenix to send him down to the D-League and eventually include him in a package sent with Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards for cap space and a first-round draft pick; the Wizards promptly waived him, leaving Marshall out of the NBA less than a year after he’d made his debut. (When the Wizards wound up trading for a new backup point guard midway through the season, Marshall — owner of one of the league’s worth-a-follow Twitter accounts — couldn’t help but notice.)

Marshall sought a fresh start to his pro career by way of a second D-League stint. After putting up strong numbers for the Delaware 87ers — 19.4 points and 9.6 assists in 37.6 minutes per game, 46.3 percent shooting from 3-point land — Marshall got a chance to run point for Mike D’Antoni’s injury-decimated Lakers, and he made the most of his opportunity. (Never did get that Kobe follow, though.)

Despite making just 54 appearances and playing less than 1,600 minutes, Marshall finished 10th in the NBA in assists last season, dropping 477 dimes, 11 fewer than LeBron James. His 8.8 assists per game (in just 29 minutes per contest) would’ve ranked tied John Wall and Ty Lawson for the league’s second-best mark behind superstar Chris Paul; he assisted on 44.3 percent of his teammates’ baskets during his floor time, an assist percentage that, again, trailed only CP3. He was careful with the ball, too; among NBA point men, only Paul, Pablo Prigioni and Jose Calderon finished with better assist-to-turnover ratios than Marshall’s 3.18-to-1 mark.

That elite playmaking, however, comes attached to some less desirable traits.

Marshall can struggle at times defensively. (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)Marshall’s scoring game continues to be a work in progress, thanks in part to a lack of top-level athleticism and explosiveness; despite boasting good size (6-foot-4, 195 pounds) and strength when getting in amongst the trees, Marshall shot just 52.8 percent inside the restricted area, and nearly 17 percent of his attempts in the paint (24 of 143) got blocked. And while Marshall’s strong long-range shooting carried over from the D-League — he drilled 39.9 percent of his 3-point tries — he struggled with his stroke both from midrange (a sub-par 31.6 percent) and the free-throw line (a dismal 52.8 percent, taking less than one attempt per 36 minutes of play).

Things get even dicier on the other end of the floor, where Marshall lacks the foot speed and lateral quickness to credibly check most opposing point guards. He didn’t fare too well when cross-matched as a shooting guard, either — in limited minutes off the ball, opposing twos rolled up an effective field goal percentage (a statistic that accounts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2s) of .640 against Marshall last season, according to 82games.com’s charting. That falls right in between the eFG% that DeAndre Jordan (.676, best in the NBA) and Andre Drummond (.623, No. 2 in the league) posted last year; this means that, during those minutes when Marshall guarded shooting guards, his opposition was as likely to score as two guys who pretty much only dunk and finish alley-oops. That’s not what you’d call ideal.

That said, even given the warts in his game, Marshall’s court vision, table-setting and play-making acumen make him more than worth taking a minimum-salaried flyer for a Bucks team that finished 26th among 30 NBA teams in points scored per possession and 21st in assist-to-turnover ratio last year.

He won’t walk into heavy minutes — Milwaukee returns starting point guard Brandon Knight and 2013 second-rounder/pleasant surprise backup Nate Wolters, could give rising sophomore sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo a look at the point this year, and is reportedly near a deal with free-agent combo guard Jerryd Bayless. But Kidd does seem to favor two-point-guard backcourt alignments — he excelled in them with the New York Knicks in his last season as a player, and he deployed them to great success in his coaching debut with the Brooklyn Nets last year — and if he can help make scoring a bit easier for Milwaukee bigs like Larry Sanders, John Henson and No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, he could carve out a role with a Bucks squad looking to take a big step forward after scuffling to a league-worst 15-67 record last season.

And if nothing else, it gives Marshall the chance to once again share the court with Henson, his longtime pal and former North Carolina teammate, as they look to revisit their college years up in Wisconsin:

You might want to watch your back, Jabari. Rookie hazing could be especially harsh for a former Blue Devil now.

- – - – - – -

Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Stay connected with Ball Don’t Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, “Like” BDL on Facebook and follow BDL’s Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Swiss Super League begins new season with beautiful own goal

There’s no better way to start a new season than with a beautiful goal, but Young Boys’ Milan Gajic might not agree with that statement right now.

Eager to improve on last season’s third-place finish, Young Boys kicked off the new Swiss Super League campaign against St. Gallen. With the match even at 1-1 in the 52nd minute, Gajic attempted to end St. Gallen’s attack with a nervous clearance over his own net, but instead he pulled off a lovely half volley that zipped in between the goalkeeper and the crossbar to give the home side a 2-1 advantage.

To Gajic’s great relief, Young Boys managed to equalize in added time and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. 

Ever since FIFA created the Puskas Award for the year’s most beautiful goal in 2009, it has been my dream that an own goal would one day win it. And with goals like this, we’re definitely getting closer to that day.

Video via 101GG

- – - – - – -

Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter!