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Got the California State Games press packet in the mail today. Seems a bit thinner this year. The California games is a development program of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Yes, I understand, you want to know what a development program is. Behold, the following, taken from a USOC Web page: "Community Olympic Development Programs partners with national governing bodies and community sports groups to enhance high-quality intermediate programs for talented youth to maximize their potential in Olympic sports." Now, that is a sentence you walk out of knowing no more than when you walked in. A bureaucratic triumph.

Laying that aside for the moment, the California State Games opening ceremonies will be held at Qualcomm Stadium, Friday, July 13. This is San Diego's 11th year as host. The games feature 21 sports, from archery to wrestling, held in venues spread across the county. Organizers expect 8000 competitors and

30,000 spectators. So, count

every kid's parents, 16,000 personhoods, and that still leaves 14,000 spectators unaccounted for. Perhaps you're in there. Check calstategames.org/ for particulars.

Baseball fans across America woke up Tuesday morning to the rousing news that the Yankees are 36-37, giving them a .493 winning percentage and placing them 11 1/2 games behind Boston, third place in the American League East. One wonders, how does a team with a $192,229,045 payroll (according to ESPN) play sub-.500 ball this far into the season?

One could say, clutch errors, clutch strikeouts, and clutch balks. But, let's go deeper; let's hear from the man who leads Major League Baseball in home runs, runs, and runs batted in -- Alex Rodriguez, who, after watching his team drop two in a row from the NL West last place San Francisco Giants, summed the series up for reporters: "The NL game is an attack-mode game and our game is stationary softball."

Which brings us to Wimbledon. Yes, it's Wimbledon time again, and I'll probably watch a piece of it. But, other than the U.S. Open, I can't think of another tennis tournament I care about. Tennis has worked its way down the food chain as golf has worked its way up. Golf's current prosperity is due to Tiger Woods. I'll look in on any tournament he plays, but like any true fan, my loyalty is conditional; he keeps playing like the son of Jor-El and I'll keep watching.

In the meantime, tennis has become a wasteland from an American point of view. The men's side of the game belongs to two foreign devils: Roger Federer (Switzerland) and Rafael Nadal (Spain). It's been a long, long time since Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Do you know Roger Federer won the last four Wimbledon titles? Do you care?

Last year's Wimbledon's men's final had a 2.9 TV rating. Last year's women's final had a 2.2 rating. To give you an idea how bad that is, last year's Ortiz vs. Shamrock: The Final Chapter (Ultimate Fighting Championship), brought home a 3.1 TV rating. On cable TV.

There are two American men ranked number 10 or better playing in this year's Wimbledon, number 3 ranked Andy Roddick and number 9 ranked James Blake. There is one American woman ranked number 10 or better playing in this year's Wimbledon, number 7 ranked Serena Williams.

Ten years ago there were three American men ranked in the top 25 at Wimbledon and five American women ranked in the top 25. Twenty years ago there were seven American men in the top 25 and ten American women.

Let us clap our hands and shout, "Roller derby!"

Which takes us to Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, longtime New York City sports-radio gasbag. He may have the definitive take on Barry Bonds. He said, on his WFAN radio show, that Bonds should be voted into baseball's Hall of Fame "because he didn't start doing steroids until 1998."

Yes, of course, it was 1998. But, what day is Mad Dog referring to? Perhaps it was February 26, the millennium's last total eclipse of the sun, Western Hemisphere edition. Or, May 21, 1998, when the Sons of Italy Foundation honored newly dead Frank Sinatra. Or, mayhap, July 10, when the National Women's Hall of Fame inducted Madeleine Albright. We need to know the correct date in order to celebrate, year after year, the day Barry Bonds started on steroids and became eligible of the Hall of Fame.

While we're working on that, let's consider the sad fate of over-the-hill women's golfer Michelle Wie, 17. This week's Next New Thing in women's golf is 12-year-old Alexis Thompson, who's teeing off at the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament as you read this. The U.S. Open, played this year at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in North Carolina, is the largest women's golf tournament in the world and 6th-grade graduate Alexis Thompson got there by the book, finishing sixth in the sectional qualifier in Heathrow, Florida. Watch her on ESPN Thursday and Friday and NBC Saturday and Sunday.

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