Cam Newton, Sparky Anderson and Thursday's Late Sports News
Sparky Anderson died today at the age of 76, one day after his family announced he had been placed in hospice care after suffering from dementia.
The former Major League skipper was known as a kind, caring man who still had love for the game.
Anderson won three World Series titles, including two with the Cincinnati Reds "Big Red Machine" featuring the likes of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan.
Elsewhere in sports, LeBron James is dealing with a deep shin bruise and was held out of practice today.
James sustained the injury Sunday in the rout over the New Jersey Nets.
Here's a closer look at those stories and other sports news Thursday evening.
Thursday Night Football 2010 isn't quite here yet, so don't worry about waking up Friday morning in a panic after forgetting to set your fantasy football lineups.
The NFL Network's showcase begins next week on November 11 and features what should be a fantastic match-up.
The Ravens will travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons, still seemingly flying under the radar at 5-2 this season.
Both teams play at home in Week 8 with good chances to further solidify their place among the best teams in the league.
Baltimore hosts the road-warrior Miami Dolphins, while Atlanta hosts upstart Tampa Bay.
Next Thursday's game kicks off at 8:20 team and is only available on the NFL Network.
Time to call your local cable or satellite provider and hike up the bill by a few more dollars a month.
Other Thursday night games on the NFL Network's schedule this season include Cincinnati at New York on Thanksgiving and Houston at Philadelphia.
Cam Newton's arrest in 2008 was largely overlooked after the quarterback walked away from the University of Florida and spent a year play Junior College ball.
Now, with an ESPN.com report Thursday detailing an NCAA investigation into allegations a handler sought upwards of $200,000 in exchange for Newton's services, his character is coming into question.
Newton was accused of stealing a fellow student's laptop during his freshman season at Florida, but charges of larceny and obstruction of justice were eventually dropped.
Based on today's news, it appears he might be in hot water again.
According to ESPN, a former Mississippi State player named Jack Bond reported Newton was being offered at a price by a man named Kenny Rogers.
Rogers also played for Mississippi State and runs an agency that matches high school athletes with colleges.
Adding another layer of intrigue to a complicated story, Cecil Newton, Cam's father, admitted the family was in contact with Rogers when they visited Mississippi State last spring.
Newton is the pastor of a church in Georgia that was nearly demolished after officials found it in violation of building code.
Last spring, Newton told the Newnan City Council that he had obtained funding for a renovation to bring the church up to code.
There's still a long way to go before the dots are connected, but the NCAA has opened an investigation into the matter.
Cam Newton's historic season and growing Heisman hopes may have just hit a snag.
According to an ESPN.com report, Newton's family is being investigated by the NCAA in the wake of comments made by a former Mississippi State player who reported a former teammate was seeking upwards of $200,000 to land his services following a year of JUCO ball.
Jack Bond, who played quarterback for the Bulldogs, reportedly contacted ESPN and said a teammate, later identified as Kenny Rogers, was letting people around the program know he could help land Newton for a price.
ESPN claims Rogers is officially listed as an "agent" in a business directory and matches high school athletes with colleges.
He also has had contact with Cam Newton.
According to Cam's father Cecil, the Newton family sought Rogers' advice when considering Mississippi State.
Cecil denied the relationship continued beyond his son's official visit to Starkville, and steadfastly denied the family knew about any of Rogers' dealings, saying if he tried to get money in exchange for Cam, he acted alone.
The report outlines the parameters of the NCAA inquiry into the situation, including the request of financial records from Newton's family.
Cecil Newton is the pastor of Holy Zion Center of Deliverance, which was on the verge of being torn down by the city of Newnan, Georgia after failure to comply with building codes.
According to various reports, Newton assured the city his church would be brought up to code and renovations began last spring.
None of the parties alleged to be involved in the investigation have issued an official statement regarding this story as of yet.
Bond told ESPN he was merely concerned about the welfare of Mississippi State and not trying to be a whistle-blower.
James Harrison has been fined for the third time this season following his late hit on Drew Brees during Pittsburgh's loss to New Orleans Sunday.
Thursday, NFL docked Harrison $20,000 after it completed a review of the hit, which drew a 15-yard penalty.
The Steelers' linebacker has now been fined a whopping $100,000 for illegal hits this season.
Tuesday, Harrison met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the NFL's crackdown on late hits.
He called the meeting "somewhat productive," but he is singing a different tune today.
Despite video clearly showing he led with his helmet to Brees' back, Harrison steadfastly denied he violated any of the league's tackling rules.
Another late hit would likely result in a suspension.
No team has been more upset with the NFL's increased focus on eliminating illegal hits than the Steelers.
Coach Mike Tomlin bristled when the league praised Harrison after not making a hit against Ronnie Brown in Week 7.
Meanwhile, star safety Troy Polamalu questioned Goodell's power to govern the NFL while talking with reporters earlier this week.
Jake Plummer was widely regarded as an enigmatic, spoiled star during his career in the NFL.
But in the days since his retirement, Plummer has found peace and rediscovered a sport he truly loves.
After his abrupt retirement in 2007, the Idaho native returned to his home state and settled near the Canadian border.
He also began to play handball religiously, a sport he was taught by his father and brothers growing up.
His love of the game has even led him to start his own tournament every Halloween.
According to a Yahoo! Sports story, the 35 year-old is no slouch on the court either.
Plummer actually claimed the Idaho State Handball Doubles Championship in 2009.
It's nice to see the snake has kept on slithering since leaving the spotlight.
Plummer certainly isn't the first former professional athlete to religiously pursue other sporting interests after his pro career.
Among the more interesting hobbies, former NBA player Todd MacCulloch was forced to retire after a series of injuries.
MacCulloch used his fortune to invest in pinball machines and began playing in tournaments all over the world.
Talk about something you don't see everyday.
Aubrey Huff took the podium Wednesday and actually managed to upstage the wacky Brian Wilson with one of the most amusing Championship Parade presentations in recent memory.
The slugger poked fun at his history of losing at his previous stops in the Major Leagues before addressing the question everybody wanted to know.
Was he still wearing his lucky thong?
Huff promptly stuck his hand down trousers, began wiggling like a maniac and revealed the infamous rally thong.
And the crowd went wild.
Huff later joked that he would be sending the thong to the Hall of Fame.
The party can't last forever, and the Giants already have plenty of decisions to make this offseason regarding personnel changes.
One of the biggest involves the fate of World Series MVP Edgar Renteria.
The Giants have until midnight eastern time Thursday to decide whether to pick up the 35 year-old shortstop's team option valued at over $10 million dollars.
Prior to his postseason heroics, Renteria looked to be on his last legs and batted only .270 with three home runs in the regular season.
The veteran also said he might retire following the World Series.
Even if Renteria and Pat Burrell don't return, the majority of the misfits should be back for another run in 2011.
And who knows, maybe another parade.
David Ortiz had his team option picked up Thursday by the Boston Red Sox.
Entering the final year of his deal, the slugger will make $12.5 million while occupying his familiar spot as designated hitter for the Bo Sox.
The decision to pick up the final year of his deal came as no surprise.
Now, Ortiz will need to produce in order to get one more big contract as his career begins to wind down.
He will turn 35 years-old later this month and will be lucky to command a long-term deal once he becomes a free agent.
As usual, Ortiz had his ups-and-downs last season but still put up solid numbers and should again be a valuable asset in the middle of Boston's lineup.
Boston could have potentially saved money by declining the option in hopes of having extra cash to lump at free agent Carl Crawford's feet.
At the same time, keeping Ortiz in the fold provides much-needed power in the lineup.
The Red Sox made a few other moves Thursday, declining the options on utility man Bill Hall and infielder Felipe Lopez.
They also got some bad news from third baseman Adrian Beltre.
The resurgent Beltre declined his player option worth $10 million and will test the free agent waters.
It's possible he could end up staying in Boston if he gets a long-term deal to his liking.
LeBron James is dealing with a shin injury that kept him out of practice Thursday.
After Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported James was held out as a result of a deep shin bruise sustained in Sunday's win over the Nets, the Miami Sun-Sentinel reported on its Twitter account Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was merely resting one of his superstars.
James was in the lineup for the Heat Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves and posted 20 points and 12 assists.
He also finished the game with no rebounds for the first time since his rookie season.
To those who watched the game, James looked more passive than usual and rarely attacked the basket.
Then again, he didn't really need to with the feeble Timberwolves offering almost resistance.
At the moment, James is expected to play Friday night when the Heat face the Hornets in New Orleans.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Monty Williams, the Hornets are off to a stunning 4-0 start this season.
Sparky Anderson died Thursday in his California home as a result of complications from dementia.
The baseball lifer spent 42 years in the Majors, 26 of them as a manager of the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers.
George Lee Anderson ranks sixth in Major League Baseball history with 2,194 wins in the regular season.
It was what he did in the postseason that helped him solidify a spot in baseball history.
Anderson managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1970-1978, directing one of the most polarizing and successful teams.
The "Big Red Machine" captured World Series titles in 1975 and 1976, becoming one of the most dominant postseason teams in MLB history.
During those title years, the Reds won 14 out of 17 games in the playoffs.
Anderson moved onto Detroit in 1979 and began to engineer a turnaround.
Arguably his most magical year as skipper came during the 1984 season.
His Tigers bolted to a ridiculous 35-5 start in that season, and went on to win 104 games and capture the World Series by defeated the San Diego Padres.
The World Series win made Anderson the first manager to win titles in both the American and National Leagues.
Following his retirement in 1995, Anderson made regular appearances at the ballpark.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 wearing a Reds' cap.
Poor health limited his public appearances in recent years, but he did travel to Detroit to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Tigers' championship team.
According to his family, Anderson's health had been declining in recent months and took a turn for the worse last week.
The managerial legend is survived by his wife Carol, three children and nine grandchildren.