Moon shot effective in soccer win

San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary dropped his pants at halftime of a game this season in an unsuccessful attempt to inspire his team.

But the old pull-your-pants-down ploy worked to perfection Sunday for a soccer team in Italy.

While taking a free kick, three Catania players formed a wall and dropped their shorts to their knees in a successful bid to block the vision of Torino goalkeeper Matteo Sereni. Catania scored on the play on its way to a 3-2 win.

After the game, former referee coordinator Paolo Casarin called the move “a trick that should not be tolerated anymore by the referees.”

But Catania CEO Pietro Lo Monaco disagreed, telling RAI state radio: “A trick? I wouldn’t say so. It’s up to the referee to decide if it should be penalized; otherwise, I don’t see where the problem is … Good taste is relative.”

IVERSON NO ANSWER — A couple of weeks after the Denver Nuggets traded Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups and two other players, Nuggets coach George Karl praised the play of his new point guard while taking some parting shots at “The Answer.”

“There are less bad plays, more solid plays,” Karl told the Denver Post. “I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have 10 to 15 a game, they don’t exist very much anymore.”

Karl was apparently irked about Iverson’s inability to run the offense like a floor general.

“Sometimes I saw something, but I couldn’t get it done on the court because I didn’t have a playmaker out there,” Karl said.

After Tuesday’s 114-105 home victory over Milwaukee, Denver has won six of its first seven games with Billups running the show. In the Motor City, the Pistons fell to 3-3 with Iverson on board after Sunday’s loss to Phoenix.

EVERYBODY DOESN’T LOVE RAYMOND — Performer Kelly Frank, the woman who perfected Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond’s trademark butt shimmy, said she does not know why she was fired Monday after five seasons with the team.

“I’m just as confused as everyone else,” she told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. “I really didn’t get an explanation.”

Frank said she was praised as recently as three weeks ago, when her supervisors told her she out-enthused the Philadelphia Phillies mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, during the World Series.

But on Monday, she was told she no longer would be Raymond. Frank also worked on marketing projects, including the cowbell promotions at several Rays games. She maintained a Raymond blog, offering insider tips on costume changes.

Frank said she was reluctant to discuss what happened Monday.

“My severance package is kind of up in the air right now, so …” she said.

Frank said she will continue her side business making mascots for other teams, including the University of Florida Gators and the Denver Nuggets.

Rick Vaughn, the Rays’ spokesman, declined to comment.

“But be assured Raymond will live on,” he wrote in an e-mail.



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