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Syndergaard has fear of mascots, including Mr. Met

Noah Syndergaard, ace of the New York Mets (11-7, 2.60 ERA), is 6-foot-6 and nicknamed Thor because of his otherworldly physicality. Yet he’s unnerved by mascots, especially the big seamhead known as Mr. Met. “I’m terrified of mascots,” Syndergaard told Fox Sports. “They’re creepy. They’re very stealthy, but they’re huge at the same time. I feel like they sneak up on me from anywhere. The most terrifying mascot, for me, is Mr. Met . . .” Mr. Met has been a mascot since the franchise began in 1962. He’s one of 18 in the Mascot Hall of Fame, so he’s not likely to be dismissed regardless of how much Syndergaard fears him.

NotepadDear Noah: Your greater fear should be base-runners. They’ve stolen 40 in 44 attempts against you – worst record in major-league ball. With a 99 mph heater, you shouldn’t be giving them so much running time. Think about a sports psychologist. 


Leaf, free and recovering, tries to help Manziel, to no avail

Ryan Leaf, who was the NFL’s second overall draft pick, behind Peyton Manning, in 1998, was one of the all-time busts, falling into addiction and imprisoned two years ago after breaking into homes and stealing drugs. But the ex-quarterback is now free and trying to help others recover from addictions. Leaf told Houston’s AM-610 that he reached out to Johnny Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner, but his offer of help was rejected. “I can be a beacon,” Leaf said, “but the boat has to come to the lighthouse. Lighthouses don’t go around looking for boats.” Leaf bears a scar on his left wrist that he once slashed hoping to end it all. As an assistant coach for West Texas A&M, he visited a dozen doctors in and near Amarillo in 2007-8 to obtain meds. But in prison he saw a way to redemption. “A roommate who shook me up from the haze,” he said. His first addiction was to vicodin, following a painful football injury. “I was an addict long before I took a drug,” he said. “I probably had more talent than Peyton, but I didn’t know how to deal with failure.” An estimated 2.5 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers. A study of 644 retired NFL players found that more than half used prescribed opioids while playing, and of those, 71 percent became addicted.


Weightlifter loses bronze for using rat poison

Izzat Artykov of Kyrgyzstan became the first medalist in the Rio Olympics to test positive for a banned substance: strychnine, the active ingredient in rat poison. When ingested by rodents, it causes muscular convulsions resulting in asphyxia and death. But in tiny doses it can be a performance enhancer for athletes. Reuters reported that in the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Thomas Hicks won the marathon after his trainer administered a concoction of strychnine, egg whites and brandy while the race was in progress. It was the first recorded incident of PEDs in the Olympics. The drug was also used as a stimulant by early competitors in the Tour de France.


Mongolian wrestlers strip in protest of judge

Ganzorian Mandakhnaran of Mongolia thought he had won the bronze medal in the Rio Olympics when he pinned Izbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Navruzov to the mat to take a one-point lead in the match. The Mongolian acted like the match was over with seven seconds remaining, and he began romping around the floor, celebrating, instead of re-engaging with his opponent as the rules require. Officials properly penalized Ganzorian by deducting two points for his violation, so the loser became the winner. Two Mongolian coaches were so upset that in protest they began stripping off their clothes (Click here for video). One of them removed everything but his undershorts.

NotepadDear Ganzo: I guess you never heard of Yogi Berra and ‘It’s never over till it’s over.’


Drugs, Part III: Bills’ D-lineman Dareus enters rehab

Marcell Dareus, Pro Bowl defensive tackle of the Buffalo Bills, surprised his teammates – most of them, anyway – by announcing that he has “made the decision to enter a rehabilitation facility.” That decision, which may have been encouraged by Bills management, came after he was assessed his second drugs violation, bringing a four-game suspension.

NotepadDear Marcell: Your sincerity is doubted when hours after you made your public pledge to sobriety, you were seen partying in the nightclubs of downtown Buffalo.


Drugs, Part IV: Gooden’s life imperiled by cocaine

Dwight Gooden, former Cy Young Award winner, may be near death because of a cocaine addiction. His former teammate, Darryl Strawberry, told The New York Daily News that he’s in “horrible” condition as “a complete junkie/addict.” Gooden was suspended for the entire 1996 season for cocaine use, and since then he’s been arrested numerous times on drug charges. “I just hope the light comes on before it’s too late,” said Strawberry, who has battled his own drug problems. As he put it: “I know addiction.”

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