Categotry Archives: Sports


Mike Awesome


Categories: Sports

mawesome.jpgMichael Lee Alfonso, a wrestler who was twice named the Extreme Championship Wrestling World Champion, committed suicide on Feb. 17. He was 42.
Born and raised in Tampa, Fla., Alfonso married his high school sweetheart and fathered two children. He spent a year as an iron worker to save up for college, and helped build several high rises in his hometown.
Alfonso dropped out of Hillsborough Community College in his third year to become a professional wrestler. After training at Steve Keirn’s Pro Wrestling School of Hard Knocks, the 6-foot-6, 292-pound wrestler made his debut in 1989. His signature move, the Running Powerbomb, quickly became a fan favorite.
Alfonso wrestled for 17 years, mostly in Japan’s Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling promotion, where he was known as “G – The Gladiator.” He won the World Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship twice as well as the World Street Fight Six-Man Tag Team Championship. In 1996, The Gladiator defeated Wing Kanemura for the FMW Independent World title. He held the title for nine months before losing it to his arch rival, Masato Tanaka.
Alfonso competed in China, South Korea, Guam, Australia, Germany, England, Puerto Rico and Canada; however, didn’t make his mark on the U.S. wrestling scene until 1999 when he captured the ECW Heavyweight title. While American audiences knew him by the name “Mike Awesome,” he also called himself “The Career Killer,” “That 70s Guy,” “That ’80s Guy,” “Fat Chick Thriller,” “The Mullet Guy” and “The Awesome One.”
In 2000, Awesome shocked the wrestling world, and angered his fellow ECW wrestlers, by making a surprise appearance on World Championship Wrestling “Monday Nitro” with his ECW belt. (He was not under contract to ECW at the time, and he could sign with any wrestling company he liked.) Although Awesome eventually closed the deal with WCW, a federal injunction prevented him from appearing on their TV shows with the ECW belt. Awesome’s final hurrah involved beating Masato Tanaka on ECW’s “One Night Stand” in 2005. He did an Awesome Bomb through a table and pinned Tanaka on the floor of the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The audience went wild.
Prior to his untimely death by hanging, Alfonso worked as a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Tampa. World Wrestling Entertainment recognized his death by displaying an “In Memory” graphic at the beginning of the Feb. 20th “ECW” on Sci Fi.
Watch a Tribute to Awesome Posted on YouTube




Categories: Sports

barbaro.jpgBarbaro, the winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby, was euthanized on Jan. 29. He was 3 years old.
Sired by stallion Dynaformer, Barbaro was foaled on April 29, 2003. He was raised by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, a married couple who own about 70 racehorses, broodmares and yearlings. The Jacksons have been in the horse business for three decades and operate the 190-acre Lael Farm in West Grove, Pa.
Trained by Michael Matz and ridden by jockey Edgar Prado, Barbaro earned $2.3 million over the course of his short, professional racing career. He won the Laurel Futurity in 2005 and the Florida Derby in 2006, and was undefeated going into the 2006 Kentucky Derby. In a field of 20 horses, Barbaro was the second choice of the betting public with 6:1 odds. During the last turn, however, he charged ahead and won the race by 7 lengths. This margin of victory was the largest at the Kentucky Derby since 1946, when Triple Crown winner Assault took the “Run for the Roses” by eight lengths. Barbaro was the sixth undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby.
Two weeks later, Barbaro entered the Preakness Stakes as the heavy favorite. He began the race with a false start when his nose disengaged the magnetically locked gate bars. After being led back around the gates, the race started and Barbaro’s life changed forever. Just a few strides in, Prado pulled the stumbling horse away from the pack and off to the side of the track. Barbaro was limping and doctors soon learned he had fractured three bones in and around the ankle of his right hind leg. Cause of the injury is unknown, but it effectively ruined any chance of a Triple Crown win and ended his racing career.
Barbaro was rushed to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center near Philadelphia where he underwent a five-hour operation to repair the damage. Over the next eight months, he endured two dozen more surgeries and suffered a series of complications, including laminitis in the left rear hoof, an abscess in the right rear hoof and laminitis in both front feet. Fans from all over the world responded to the horse’s injuries by sending thousands of cards, flowers and gifts.
In the end, the pain became too much for Barbaro. He wasn’t healing properly and he wouldn’t lie down and sleep for two straight nights. At that point, the colt’s owners met with Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the New Bolton Center, and agreed to have him euthanized.
“It’s not easy to ever put an animal down and make that decision. It’s very hard. And he’s given us so much joy, and you still envision the Kentucky Derby winner every time you see him. That’s what is so hard. It wasn’t easy; we just tried to do the best we can by him,” Gretchen Jackson said.
The Jacksons have yet to decide where Barbaro’s ashes will be buried. One Florida racetrack plans to honor him by establishing a Barbaro scholarship for a student studying veterinary medicine at the University of Florida. The Barbaro Memorial Fund was also created to raise money for laminitis research.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR
Watch Barbaro win the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby
Watch Barbaro’s Accident at the Preakness
[Update – Jan. 30, 2008: Barbaro’s ashes and a bronze statue will be placed in front of an entrance gate at Churchill Downs sometime in 2009.]


Darrent Williams

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Categories: Sports

dwilliams.jpgDarrent Williams, a right cornerback for the Denver Broncos, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Jan. 1. He was 24.
Williams was raised in a tough Fort Worth, Texas, neighborhood by his mother, Rosiland. He played three sports in high school and credited two of his coaches and a local minister for guiding him away from trouble. Although three colleges recruited him, Williams opted to study education at Oklahoma State University because it was close to his family. He started 32 games over four seasons, scored nine times and set a Big 12 Conference career record with five interceptions returned for a touchdown. A Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, he was a second round draft pick (56 overall) in 2005.
The 5-foot-8, 188-pound cornerback played two seasons in the National Football League, both with Denver. He used part of his $1.3 million signing bonus to buy his mother a house and a car. No. 27 started nine games in his first season, the most by a Denver rookie in that position since 1975. He led the Broncos in punt and kick returns, and racked up 108 return yards on two interceptions, including an 80-yard touchdown return against the Oakland Raiders that was the longest interception return by a rookie in franchise history.
This past season, Williams started in 14 games. He made 85 tackles, 4 interceptions, 15 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on defense. Williams was also fined $15,000 for arguing with an official during a November match-up against the San Diego Chargers. The NFL rescinded the fine earlier this week and plans to give the money to his family.
Hours after the Broncos were eliminated from playoff contention on Dec. 31, Williams attended a New Year’s Eve party and birthday party for Denver Nuggets player Kenyon Martin at the Denver nightclub, Shelter. A verbal argument broke out between Williams’ friends and another group, but no physical altercation took place. Shortly after 2 a.m., someone inside a 1998 Chevy Tahoe with dark-tinted windows pulled up beside Williams’ 23-passenger Hummer H2 limousine and opened fire. Williams was fatally wounded with a gunshot wound to the neck. Passengers Brandon Flowers and Nicole Reindl were shot, but survived their injuries. Broncos teammate Javon Walker, who was also inside Williams’ vehicle, was not hurt in the shooting. Police are investigating three gang members in connection with the Williams’ slaying.
“Losing a fine young man such as Darrent Williams leaves me speechless with sadness. We all know that Darrent was an excellent player, but as a person, he was a first-class young man who brightened every room with his smile, attitude and personality. I cannot express how heartsick I feel at this loss,” Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan stated.
Outside of his football career, Williams launched the independent record label RYNO Entertainment and made numerous charitable contributions to little league football teams in Fort Worth and Houston. He encouraged kids to stay out of gangs and planned to establish a free football camp for youth players. In his spare time, the father of two liked to bowl, watch movies and shoot hoops.
Watch a Tribute to Williams
Williams’ My Space Page


Brian Lee Schubert


Categories: Law, Military, Sports

Brian Lee Schubert, a private investigator and veteran BASE jumper, leaped from a bridge to his death on Oct. 21. He was 66.

The Alta Loma, Calif., resident was a former Army paratrooper and a graduate of the FBI Academy. He worked in law enforcement for more than two decades, ending his career as a lieutenant with the Pomona, Calif., police department. After his retirement in 1989, Schubert opened his own private investigation business. He was also an avid fisherman, hunter and skier.

Schubert was in his 20s when he first explored BASE jumping, a sport which involves parachuting off buildings, antennae, spans and earth. In 1966, he and his friend Mike Pelkey became the first people to jump from El Capitan, the largest monolith in America. Fierce winds near the 3,000-foot-high rock formation in Yosemite National Park caused Pelkey to accidentally fracture his ankle. Schubert collapsed his parachute early and broke all of the bones in his feet — and several other bones as well — upon landing. He did not BASE jump again for 40 years.

Last Saturday, thousands of people watched Schubert jump from the New River Gorge Bridge during the annual Bridge Day festival in Fayetteville, W. Va. According to witnesses, Schubert’s parachute opened about 25 feet from the ground, too late to stop his fall. He hit the New River, 876 feet below the bridge, and died on impact.

Nearly 400 jumpers from 13 countries performed 804 jumps at Bridge Day this year. Schubert’s death was the first time a fatality had marred the event since 1987, and the third since the festival started in 1980.
World BASE Fatality List


Susan Butcher


Categories: Sports

sbutcher.jpgSusan Howlet Butcher, a champion musher who won The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race four times, died on Aug. 5 of leukemia. She was 51.

Although Butcher was raised in Cambridge, Mass., she always yearned to live in the country. When she was 8 years old, she even wrote an essay for school titled “I Hate the City.” Butcher didn’t like how stressful it felt to live in urban areas and longed to trek off into the wilderness. At 20, she did just that, moving to a remote log cabin in Alaska and teaching herself to become a professional musher, dog breeder and trainer.

“From the first moment that I landed in Alaska, I felt at home for the first time in my life. So there really is something — and I don’t want to become mystical about this, but it’s something that I don’t completely understand — which is that there was this person born in me that absolutely should have been born in Alaska, or should have been born 50 years before or 100 years before, where I could have been a pioneer. That’s all there is to it. I was born with the pioneering spirit,” Butcher once said.

Butcher made headlines in 1978 when she tackled the Iditarod, a 1,152-mile journey across the Alaskan tundra. The grueling competition forces participants to endure winds of up to 100 mph, sleep deprivation, wild animals, artic blizzards and avalanches. Being a woman in a male-dominated sport, Butcher also faced isolation and anger from her male counterparts. Undaunted, Butcher completed 17 Iditarods, winning in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. The only time she didn’t finish the sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome was in 1985 when a crazed moose attacked her team and killed two of her animals.

Despite critics’ claims that the Iditarod harms its dog participants, Butcher considered them her friends, family and workmates. She personally trained her dogs and always included them in the winner circle. Butcher was even known to walk in front of her team in non-racing situations to lead them through bad snow storms. The dogs loved her as well. At one point during a training session, Butcher fell through the ice. The team of canines rallied and pulled her to safety.

Butcher competed in her last Iditarod in 1994, then she and her husband David Monson, a one-time lawyer and fellow dog musher, decided to start a family. Her post-competition years were spent caring for their two daughters, Tekla and Chisana, and breeding, raising and training sled dogs. She also assisted the media as a color-commentator for the Iditarod and served as an outspoken advocate for wildlife and the environment. Her racing adventures were chronicled in a 1993 children’s book and in an Emmy Award-winning documentary.

Butcher was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in 2005. Within weeks of the public announcement of her illness, more than 1,000 people registered with the National Bone Marrow Registry to help find her a donor. Butcher underwent chemotherapy treatment and was in remission last May when she received a stem-cell transplant. She then developed graft-versus-host-disease, a condition in which the transplanted cells attacked her digestive system. Further tests showed that her leukemia had also returned.

In the final days of her life, Butcher and her husband penned an online journal to keep fans and friends up-to-date on her condition. A memorial service in celebration of her life is scheduled for Sept. 2 on the University of Alaska campus in Fairbanks.

Listen to a Tribute From NPR

[Update March 14, 2007: Butcher’s ashes will be scattered at a place called “Old Woman,” between Kaltag and Unalakleet on the Iditarod trail. Butcher was also made the honorary musher at the ceremonial start of this year’s race.]

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