Liverpool Soccer Hooligans Are About to Get a Taste of Moneyball

Plus: An Italian basketball club wants Kobe Bryant, if only for a night

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Today in sports: Billy Beane's huge in Liverpool, Kobe Bryant gets an offer to play in Italy, and Luther Campbell sues the man at the heart of the University of Miami booster scandal.

  • Success has largely eluded Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane since Moneyball was published in 2003, but like Mickey Rourke and Jerry Lewis, he doesn't lack for people to tell him how much they love his work. The most starstruck Beane disciple is probably Damien Comolli, the newly-installed director of football for Liverpool F.C. of the English Premier League. He first started corresponding with Beane, an EPL junkie, in 2005 when he was an executive with Tottenham Hotspur. He lost that job in 2008 after falling out of favor with the ownership for selling two top strikers and, according to The Guardian, "failing to replace them adequately, leaving the squad unbalanced." That's the Moneyball equivalent of a mortal sin, but Beane still recommended him for the top front office job at Liverpool when Boston Red Sox owner John Henry bought the club last year. Passing ability is to Comolli what on-base percentage was to Beane. "Throughout the season you can almost track which are the best teams," he says. "And the best teams are the one who are most successful at passing the ball." []
  • The NBA cancelled training camps and the entire pre-season today. Sensing blood in the water--or maybe just no thaw in the league's labor cold war--Italian pro club Virtus Bologna has offered Lakers guard Kobe Bryant $6.7 million to play for them during the lockout. According to the Associated Press, the club has given Bryant "four contract options, stretching from the one-year deal to two-month and one-month options, and a per-game deal that would come out to $739,640 per home game" and the ability to return whenever the work stoppage is over. [CBS News]
  • As if imprisoned University of Miami superbooster Nevin Shapiro--who told Yahoo Sports he provided illicit benefits ranging from cash to prostitutes to 72 Miami athletes over a period of eight years--didn't have enough to worry about already: he's now being sued for defamation by former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell over his comment to Yahoo that Campbell was "the first uncle who took care of players," which is to say, the first person to doll out sweeteners to basketball and football players at the school. Campbell filed his lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court yesterday and wants $15,000 in damages. [Orlando Sentinel
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