Friday, March 30, 2012

Is Jim Schwartz unwittingly justifying bounties?

Like most grey areas, it depends on how you want to look at it. A recent AP report from Palm Springs, Fla., where some of the movers and shakers of the NFL were gathered to chit-chat, has Schwartz making some very interesting statements.

"Schwartz said past awards he's given out while working for the Tennessee Titans and the Lions -- baseball bats or a boxing glove for big hits -- had league approval, because they didn't have any monetary significance".

While it's easy to skim right over that statement with tacit acceptance, stop and consider it. Sure, depending on the quality of bats or boxing gloves, they might range anywhere from maybe 10 bucks to a few hundred, but they're certainly not free. Money is involved somewhere. Where do you want to draw the line?

Schwartz went on to say, "It was part of the game ball program. It wasn't part of anything else".

Careful there, Jimbo, because you're treading on thin ice. Under oath, a shrewd attorney might well grill him as to the difference between 10 bucks worth of merchandise, or a couple thousand in cash, when the objective, and the means to achieve it, are the same. I highly doubt whether a court of law would make much of a distinction between a solid gold bullet, or one made of lead, if one were to shoot somebody.

Schwartz went on. "A recognition system has been in effect for football since pee wee ball. We give out game balls..... A lot of colleges give out stickers on helmets; high schools give out stickers on helmets. There's a big difference between things like that and things like bounties".

Maybe, and maybe not. Schwartz's "testimony" seems ambiguous at best. I dare say in a court of law, Schwartz would likely get blown up on the witness stand for such remarks. The past practice and precedents set not only by him, but others who have engaged in similar activities, while freely admitting rewards have been given out since "pee wee ball" for big hits on an opponent, would certainly seem to suggest it's inherent in the very nature of the sport. And let's not kid ourselves. The NFL didn't become the gorilla in the room of American professional sports due to the footwork of offensive linemen. It's about hard-hitting action.

On that note, the NFL would seem to have some culpability in this matter, as well. They have their own TV station now. And what have they shown on occasion? A "biggest hits" program. A virtual Top Ten count down of a player getting absolutely destroyed on the field of play by an opponent hitting him. And guess what? The NFL gets a helluva lot more than a baseball bat, a boxing glove, a game ball, or a couple thousand bucks off this sort of stuff. Yet the Saints are being hammered for doing the same thing. Do you sense hypocrisy here?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in a tough spot. On the one hand, if he clamps down too much on violence in a historically violent sport, some fans will become disenchanted and stay away. (It would be like the NHL banning fighting. It might be politically correct, but good luck with how the fans would react). On the other, everything's about image these days, so he tries to placate the bleeding-hearts that think the sky is falling every time one of the players gets "jacked up" -- which was also a segment on an NFL condoned TV program, by the way. Bet we won't see that again any time soon. If Goodell navigates his way out of this mess, maybe he should get a sticker on his gold cuff links -- or something.

Conclusion? This whole thing has been way overblown. Given the current atmosphere of sports-related sex scandals, cheating here, illegal payments there, etc -- the Saints are merely the fall guys in a current hyper-sensitive media environment. Wrong place at the wrong time.

It's the NFL. Every time a guy has the ball, 11 other guys are trying to inflict great bodily harm. It's just the way it is. If you don't like it, then don't watch. Millions of others seem to enjoy it for their own reasons.

But spare me all the outrage over a thousand bucks here and there about some bounty system.

WAY overblown.


Mike Brown, Kobe, and some blond girl

Mike Brown was a bad dude. He whupped the California Kid Uriah Faber twice in mixed martial arts cage fighting. Then along came some guy named Jose Aldo, a Brazilian I think, lurking around at about the same weight, and that guy was, and is, an absolute nightmare. Like club fighters getting into the ring with Mike Tyson in his early days. That kind of nightmare.

Then there's the Mike Brown that is currently the head coach of the LA Lakers. While this Brown no doubt has extensive knowledge of the intricacies of professional basketball, he appears to inspire about the same level of intimidation as Urkel.

Brown became well known for coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers while Lebron James was still there. Then Lebron "took his talents to South Beach", Brown got axed in Cleveland; Phil Jackson, the Zen Master himself, retired as the LA Lakers coach, and alakazam -- Brown's in LA-LA-Land coaching the artists formerly known as "Show Time". Or as many NBA fans outside the glitz circle call them -- $#&@!.

Now he has to deal with Kobe Bryant, arguably the face of the franchise. Bryant certainly thinks he is, and while he's been a terrific player over the years, he's also been very selfish, not only on the court, but off it as well. On the court, sometimes it doesn't matter if Bryant is triple-teamed, which means a couple of his teammates are wide open for a pass; he'll still do a couple of spins, maybe a half-gainer with a double twist, and as he's falling away -- by God -- he's going to try to shoot the damn ball. Off the court, in interviews, Bryant comes across as thinking everything about that franchise runs through him.

Idle thought. I wonder how smug Kobe would be if he woke up and found himself traded to his current coach's former team -- Cleveland.  Would that fall into the category of poetic justice? Good luck mansion hunting on the shores of Lake Erie.

Now Mike Brown, for whatever reason, has temporarily removed Kobe from the starting line-up,  Perhaps it was for lack of hustle, playing defense, attitude, or maybe an internal problem. Who knows? But when a first year coach decides to bump heads with the star player -- well -- good luck with that Mike. Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, baddest man in the whole damn town -- you're not. Did I mention Urkel?

Combine all that with fact that the Lakers aren't the class of the west anymore. It's the former Seattle Supersonics, now known as the Oklahoma City Thunder. A few hours ago, they just waltzed into LA and trashed Kobe and company in their own building. The Okies are younger and will get better. This does not bode well for the glitzers in LA. A new dynasty may well be on the horizon.

And then there's that pool-shooting blond girl that wanders into a certain sports bar once in a while. If it wasn't for the hair color, I'd swear she was a clone of Margaret Hamilton. The lady that played the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz. People that know me also know I have a couple of yorkies that I love very much. Last time that blond girl walked past me, I thought she mumbled something about -- I'll get you my pretty, and your little dogs too. And then she cackled walking away. Yikes. Who IS this woman, and why would she threaten my poor little dogs? What's even scarier is she called me pretty. Obviously, the poor thing is deranged. Next thing you know, she'll be hanging out at airports or something.

I'm thinking maybe she needs to go a couple rounds with Mike Brown. No, not the Urkel basketball coach -- the guy in the octagon. I'd gladly cough up $49.95 to see THAT one on pay-per-view. But I'm not sure who I'd bet on. Years of training and discipline are one thing. Flat out orneriness and attitude are quite another.

Idle thought..... Speaking of clones -- I'm saying point guard James Harden of the above mentioned Okla City Thunder is a younger version of Grady, from Sanford and Son. Check it out, and tell me I'm wrong.....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bounties. The American way

The New Orleans Saints have certainly been big news lately with their "bounty" system having been exposed. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has dropped the hammer on their management side, with everything from suspensions, loss of draft picks, and hefty fines. Some of the players involved are probably pretty nervous right about now, because they're next. Like the old saying goes -- Justice cometh, and that right soon.

Yet an argument has been made by some that this doesn't go far enough. They maintain the bounty system should be regarded as a criminal matter, subject to prosecution, and the penalties thereof.

What they seem to overlook is bounties have been, and still are, interwoven into the very fabric of America. An outrageous statement?  I don't think so. Though there's a lot of examples, here's just a few.....

Consider the Old Wild West in America. Bounties were commonplace. Many times the poster said "dead or alive".  Never mind a trial and evidence, cold blooded murder was not only accepted, but encouraged. It didn't matter if the bounty hunter(s) shot the alleged bad guy in the back, or even while he slept. Throw the corpse on a horse or wagon, bring him in, and they got their money -- no questions asked. They weren't considered criminals. Far from it. They became legends.

Fast forward. The Kennedy administration offered a bounty on Fidel Castro of Cuba. Dead or alive. During his roughly 50 year rule of Cuba, what did Fidel ever do to harm the United States? Nothing.

FF again. 9/11 hits the USA, and there's bounties everywhere after the terrorist attacks. $10 million for bin Laden, $5 million for this guy, $3 million for that guy, etc, etc. The Bush administration even made them into a deck of cards. Remember that?  Dead or alive. Show us the body and here's your money. Just like the old west.

On a lower level, there's thousands of "bounty hunters" in the United States right now. Notwithstanding the Dawg show on cable TV, many of these people don't wish to be called that anymore. Nowadays, they're "skip-tracers". It's just another step in the politically correct nonsense that makes bald people "follicly challenged", and the like. That means chasing down people that have stiffed a bail bondsman and didn't show up in court. Oftentimes these bounty hunters run roughshod over a citizen's rights. But as long as they can deliver the body and get their money, no questions asked, that's all that seems to matter.

If you want to start making criminals of the people who not only offer the bounty in the first place, but do bad things to collect it -- then start in Washington DC. Maybe we should dig up all those old west heroes that still have their boots on, and have them flogged posthumously. Might as well give JFK a few lashes too. Modern day bounty hunters? Make them ring the doorbell like the Avon lady.

The Saints had a bounty system. A thousand here and a thousand there. This was amongst players that are making hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars every year. The whole mindset of the NFL is to beat the tar out of the other guys. Do you really think an extra grand or two made that much of a difference to these guys in how they played? That's chump change.

Bottom line? It's all about perception. Like most large corporations/companies, the NFL is very image conscious these days. Through the media, the public is much more aware of injuries, such as concussions, than they were in the past. Roger Goodell is trying to walk a fine line between keeping the NFL as a hard-hitting intensive sport -- which, by the way, firmly established the NFL as the king of American pro sports in the first place -- while trying to appease those that think the sky is falling every time a serious injury occurs.

As for possible criminal prosecution involving the Saints bounty program? I'll go along with that on one condition. That the people that are advocating it get charged with felonious ignorance of history, with a misdemeanor charge of wimpiness tacked on.

Those aren't laws? Well, they ought to be.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The last chapter of Pat Summitt?

The legendary coach of Tennessee's Lady Volunteers may have coached her last game. Most are aware that Summitt was diagnosed a while back with early onset Alzheimer's/dementia. No doubt Summitt will be afforded the best modern medicine has to offer, but the sad truth is her condition won't get better -- over time it will get worse.

Without getting into all the incredible stats she and her teams have racked up in her long and illustrious career, this author is of the opinion that she accomplished something that was not only remarkable, but will be remembered as historic.

Namely, she put ladies college hoops on the sports radar screen in a big way. It's a big deal these days, and rightfully so. The ladies have been playing college basketball for a very long time, but not until the last couple decades or so were they much noticed by the mainstream sports media. Back in the "old days", the ladies would play their games in basically empty gyms, and there certainly wasn't any TV coverage.

Nowadays, cable stations are televising games, and a major network will likely jump in when they get down to their Final Four. Have they caught up to their male counterparts yet in that regard? Of course not, but they're getting there, year by year, fan by fan, inch by agonizing inch, and bravo to them.

It wouldn't have happened without Pat Summitt. One needs not look too far back in history to remember when ladies' college hoops was dominated by teams like Old Dominion and Lousiana Tech. For that matter, many schools didn't even take the sport seriously. Then along came Summitt who began building her dynasty in Knoxville. Did she win some of her early titles when the competition wasn't nearly as ferocious as it is today? Probably so, but that's the point.

Other schools started sitting up and taking notice of Summitt's success. They got more serious about their programs, including coaching staffs, recruiting, facilities, publicity, etc. They wanted a piece of the action too.

In the end, Summitt may have been a victim of her own success. Look around. Schools like UConn, Notre Dame, Stanford, and Baylor have emerged as powerhouses. Texas A&M won the national championship last year. Where did THEY come from? Tennessee, while still amongst the elite programs, no longer dominates like they once did. The competition is growing every year. And that's a good thing for the sport, Volunteer fans notwithstanding.

Unlike men's college hoops, where it's not unusual for a top seed to get knocked off in the regionals, the ladies haven't quite progressed to that point. Last year, not a single #1 seed men's team made it to the Final Four, and this year only one. Conversely, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see all four of the ladies' #1 seeds make it this year. To date, their sport hasn't evolved to where the men's sport is. There are no Davidsons or Butlers in the world of ladies' college hoops. Yet.

But someday it will happen, and Coach Summitt will be the reason.

This is not to presume Pat Summitt's coaching career is over, but signs certainly point that way. Of late, Holly Warlick, evidently Coach Summitt's hand-picked successor, has been coaching the team, while Summitt sits passively by on the bench, saying nothing. Draw your own conclusions.

No matter how it turns out -- Pat Summitt is an American icon, and hats off to her for everything she's accomplished. Bravo.

On a personal note -- Sorry Deb. Brittney Griner and the Baylor Lady Bears were just too much. 38-0 speaks for itself, and they're routing everybody. I'd be surprised if they don't win the title. Don't stay away too long. Been keeping your stool warm. LOL

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Final Four. Overrated

No doubt, it's impressive for a college basketball team, be they men or women, to get to the Final Four. This is about the men. I'm still trying to figure out the women's side of things, but it's probably a fair statement to say most men have that problem for their entire lives, and never do figure it out. But I digress. 

During the first couple games of the tournament, the top seeds normally cruise through cupcake competition, but when it gets to the regionals, they better bring their A game or they'll get sent packing. Ask former #1 seeds Michigan State, North Carolina, and Syracuse about that. Poof. Gone in 40 minutes.

Kentucky is the lone remaining #1 seed to make it to the Final Four this year. Last year, not a single #1 seed made it that far.

But the Final Four is just that. They've made the semi-finals. So why did all 4 teams get trophies and cut the nets down while celebrating like they're world champions? Only one is going to win it. The other three will be quickly forgotten. Don't believe me? UConn won it last year, but quick -- who were the other semifinalists? See what I mean? It doesn't matter. While they all cut the nets down upon reaching the Final Four, Kentucky, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth are nothing more than an answer to a trivia question only a year later, when it comes to this tournament. Sure, reaching the Final Four means major exposure and publicity, being shown on TV worldwide, and no doubt a hefty check for the bean counters at the universities, but somebody has to come in fourth, and third, and second. And those three spots don't matter.

This year, Ohio State will face off with Kansas, and Kentucky has a grudge match with Louisville in the semis next Saturday. Funny thing is -- I'm guessing neither of the two winners will be getting another trophy for making the actual finals, much less cutting the nets down. They have to get ready for the "big" game on Monday night.

When teams make the Final Four, they get shirts and caps commemorating it. It's a big deal. If they win in the semis, they won't get the same memorabilia, even though they've reached a higher level. I guess it's OK to brag about being a semifinalist, but not cool to be known as an eventual runner-up. Am I the only person that thinks that's somehow strange?

Yep, the Final Four is WAY over hyped. In the end, there will be only one winner and three losers.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

North Carolina, Duke, and Oakland University

If my internet searches are correct, the University of North Carolina is a public institution located in Chapel Hill, with student enrollment of  somewhere around 18,000+, and it encompasses about 729 acres.

One might expect Duke University to have similar stats. One couldn't be more wrong. Duke is a private university with a relatively measly student enrollment of about 6600. Roughly a third of UNC's. And here's something I found astounding -- While both UNC and Duke are listed as being located in "suburban" settings, Duke sits on a whopping 8709 acres. Talk about elbow room. There's big-time ranchers in Montana and Texas that can't boast that kind of spread. That's an acre and a third per student. Conversely, doing the math, UNC is packing them in like sardines at 24 students per acre.

On the yearly cost to attend, with tuition, fees, room and board, etc., UNC averages about $20,000 for "in-staters", but zaps the out-of staters for double that. That doesn't seem right, but it must be legal somehow.

Then again, Duke, as a private university, seems to have a one size fits all when it comes to those costs. But it's upwards of $55,000 a year. That's a big cha-ching, but hey, the groundskeepers alone trying to maintain 8700 acres have to cost them a fortune.

Oakland University is public and has a student enrollment of 18,000+ while sitting on 1500 acres of pristine land. But nobody seems to know for sure what town they're in. Evidently, in their infinite wisdom, the local yokel politicos have created a border that runs through their campus. Some of it is in Rochester Hills, and some in Auburn Hills. It must be an election year. OU averages about $21,000 for Michigan residents, but like UNC, they bang the out-of-staters to the tune of about $33,000.

So what does all this have to do with sports? All three schools play Division 1 men's basketball. Duke and North Carolina are well known powerhouses, and have been for decades. Oakland, while relatively new to D1, is still trying to get a little respect, but they're light years from becoming a serious contender in the annual NCAA hoops tourney.

It's weird when you think about it. Oakland has about the same student population as UNC, and twice the acreage, but they have a second class basketball arena and can't even field a football team. Perhaps that has something to do with not having a facility for them to play in. A golf course, yes. A football venue, no. Heck, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a golf course on the infield, but how many sports fans care about that?

UNC has a football team, and they're pretty good some years, but few would consider it to be an elite program. Duke, with a third of the student population of UNC and Oakland, a whole bunch of land, and exorbitant tuition rates, has a football team, but they're never any good. No hot-shot high school kid wants to go to Duke to play football, full ride or not.

Duke has been a power house in men's basketball for decades. Despite their early exit from the NCAA tournament this year, an anomaly, they will likely remain so well into the future. On top of that, Duke's ladies' hoops team is consistently amongst the best in the nation.  So what has the athletic department at Oakland University been doing all these years, besides watching the world go by?

Three times the student population of Duke, and they can't come anywhere near competing with them, let alone beating them, in ANY sport? And don't tell me it's about academics, because I'll laugh. You name the field of study, and which university's degree do you think would be more impressive in the real world to have on a graduate's resume?

Like sports, it's not even a close call.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Elite and the Delete of NCAA hoops

Wow. Not so lowly 13 seed Ohio U came within a bobcat's whisker of putting North Carolina's tar heels into high heels, and whisking them right off the dance floor. Could you imagine the repercussions if that had happened? Definitely elite viewing for TV fans. As were most of the other games, but like the one mentioned above, in the end, the higher seed prevailed.

As for delete? I've been feeling this rant coming on, so please excuse me while I get it out of my system.

Uh oh, wait a second..... It could be that actor Alec Baldwin, who's been seen repeatedly during the tournament with those silly Capital One commercials, the intended object of my rant, has fallen to his death off a cliff in New Zealand while filming a movie.

Assuming the early reports from New Zealand are accurate, I didn't know that when I sat down to write this post, just a couple minutes ago. So nevermind about the delete thing. It was meant to be about the commercials, not someone's life, but it still wouldn't be appropriate if the sad news bears out to be indeed valid. Because no other news organizations have picked up on it yet, I hope this is just another cheap publicity stunt, or yet another internet prank. If so, I will be back with a vengeance regarding those commercials. For now, I just hope he's OK.

However, as they say, I suppose the show must go on. Some interesting match-ups loom in the regional finals. Syracuse/Ohio State should be a dandy. Same with North Carolina/Kansas. If Louisville keeps playing the way they have been, they should have little trouble dispatching Florida. And who's going to bet against Kentucky when they take on Baylor?

But anything can happen. A lower-seeded team could get hot shooting 3s while the favorite is merely average. A key player here or there could get in foul trouble, or worse yet, injured. You never know.

I dare say the juiciest potential match-up would be in the national semi-finals. Louisville vs Kentucky. Both teams from the same state. A rivalry as good as it gets. Head coaches Rick Pitino vs John Calipari, two high-profile guys that aren't exactly known to have life-long loyalties to any one city or team. Both make ridiculous salaries, both probably spend more on clothes than your average CEO or First Lady, and despite all the yelling, and racing up and down the sidelines during the course of a game -- neither ever has a hair out of place. And, of course, both are thought of amongst some as merely hired guns -- mercenaries. If it comes to that, in my opinion, it's too bad one of them has to win.

Idle thought -- Roy Williams, the head coach of North Carolina for the last few years, sure talks a lot different these days than he did when he was with Kansas. The southern drawl and all, y'all. Yet coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, just down the road from UNC, has been there forever, and still no southern accent. What's up with that?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"No mas" for Michigan

As in the whole state, regarding the NCAA men's hoops tourney. The Univ of Mich and Detroit Mercy politely did their curtsies and exited stage left last week.

Michigan State was their last hope. Then they played Louisville.  Though it had nothing to do with sexual orientation or closets, the Spartans got "outed" in a large way. They were out-shot, out-boarded, out-ran, out-hustled, out-toughed, out-coached and, in the end, just plain OUT. This wasn't just a defeat. It was a BEATDOWN.

Conversely, for a while there, Michigan's arch-rival state of Ohio still had 4 teams in the tournament. Cincy, Ohio U, Ohio State, and Xavier. OSU beat Cincy later on, and it's unlikely Ohio U will get past mighty North Carolina, or Xavier beat Baylor, but for now, there can be no question which state has bragging rights when it comes to men's college hoops.

Perhaps Michiganders shouldn't take it too hard. After all, the Cheesers just got nulled and voided too. Wisconsin went down in a thriller to Syracuse, and the Florida Gators snapped their jaws shut on Marquette.

Sports Illustrated's legendary jinx held yet again. They had picked Michigan State to win it all (so did I, maybe even a worse jinx) in a close championship game with North Carolina. But the Tar Heels' point guard broke a bone in his wrist last week, which required surgery. That doesn't sound good.

Syracuse is really deep with talent, but without arguably their best player, Fab Melo, who got kicked to the curb for the tournament due to some sort of eligibility issues. Don't get me wrong. I like their head coach Jim Boeheim, and hope he does well, but the Orange has somewhat of a waxy tournament history. The more the heat goes up, the softer they get.

Kentucky is still alive and well. Some might say when it comes to recruits, they're Blue Chip U, but then there's that perception of head coach John Calipari running a "one and done" program to feed players to the NBA. Regardless, those guys are really good.

So who's going to win it?

Beats me. I'm still hoping Slippery Rock makes a comeback. Whatever happened to them anyway?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jim Leyland, Miguel Cabrera, and the Corvair

So Miguel Cabrera got popped in the face by a hot grounder, eh?  Tigers manager Jim Leyland said his face was swelled up, and Miggy looked like a boxer that needed a cut man, while getting beat in the fight.

A sensitive guy, that Leyland. Then, responding to questions from the press, Leyland went on to say that Cabrera, who has claimed the third base position in the merry-go-round since Prince Fielder hit town, would never be another Brooks Robinson.

Well, no kidding, Jimbo. It might have been a better analogy to compare Cabrera to Smokey Robinson. While they both rank(ed) high on the hit parade, they also seem(ed) to depend on Miracles. Smokey for his bandmates, and Miggy for being a decent defensive third baseman in the major leagues. And what, pray tell, might be the next jewel of wisdom emanating from the Leyland oracle? That Cabrera won't steal as many bases as Lou Brock? Have the lifetime batting average of Ty Cobb? His baseball cards ever worth a Rogers Hornsby?

While many fans and the media hang on Leyland's words like he just came down from the mountain with the tablets, your truly considers him to be vastly overrated. Like Sparky Anderson, he was in the right place at the right time to soak up a lot of glory, and throw out a lot of quotes, when they had immensely talented teams. What people tend to forget is both those guys stunk it up pretty bad when the talent level of their teams was anything less than stellar.

Someone recently said that Cabrera faced less risk playing third base than first base, and proposed the lame argument that first basemen are more likely to get spiked. That's ludicrous. On an extremely rare occasion, and only when the first baseman botches his own footwork, will he get spiked covering that bag. And how many batters have you seen sliding into first base slide with their spikes up, like they sometimes do at third?

Third base is called the "hot corner" for a reason. Things happen fast there, and Cabrera now has a few stitches in his face, and a fractured bone to show for it. Leyland said the same thing would have happened to any third baseman, including a Gold Glover, but I doubt it. He may be a slugger, but cat-quick with the glove, he's not. When's the last time you saw this happen to any other major league third baseman?

By comparison, first base is a piece of cake. Throw out practice grounders to the infielders while the pitcher is warming up to start an inning. Take the same infielders' throws on ground outs. Stand next to the bag, holding a runner on base when needed, and  play "cut-off" man when a throw comes in from an outfielder to the plate.

Meanwhile, while the first baseman is holding the runner, the third baseman has to come in close to guard against a bunt. If the batter takes a full swing, and the ball heads his way, then he's in danger.

Brandon Inge was an excellent third baseman, but he couldn't hit much. Evidently, now he's going to be the second baseman. He'll probably fare well there defensively, but it won't help his bat any. Hence, the merry-go-round.

As for Cabrera? If Jim Leyland can refer to the era of Brooks Robinson -- than so can I. Back then, there was this "consumer advocate" named Ralph Nader that wrote a book about the Chevy Corvair that was titled "Unsafe At Any Speed". It got around in a big way, and in the end, much to GM's chagrin, it eventually spelled the demise of the Corvair. Looking back, they were dopey looking cars, but kind of cool in their own way.

Miguel Cabrera was serviceable at first base, but since Prince Fielder displaced him there, I'm thinking there's a comparison to be drawn between Miggy and the ill-fated Corvair.

As in "Unsafe At Any Position".

Of course the Corvair never enjoyed the luxury of the "designated hitter". But I'm willing to guess one of those in mint condition is worth more than a whole set of Cabrera's baseball cards ever will be.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Revisiting Title IX

As all sports fan know, the NCAA hoops tourney is in full swing. Students, alumni, players, coaches, fans, and the media are caught up in March Madness once again.

Thing is, there's actually two NCAA tournaments going on. The men's and the women's. And that's where something is wrong.

While the men's tourney was going on last Thurs-Sun, I could get every game on my dish. Four at the same time? No problem. Cable stations TNT, something called truTV, TBS, and even the mighty CBS were all on board. Click, click, click.

Earlier tonight, the ladies' teams were playing, so I went to check it out. Guess what? The only game available was on a secondary ESPN channel. The other stations that were there for the men had gone elsewhere when the ladies tipped it up. One had something on called "Lizard Lick Towing", whatever that is. Another had Hawaii 5-0, or maybe it was reruns of Two and a Half Men.

Even ESPN's flagship channel was airing an NIT game, of all things. Instead of showing premier ladies' hoop action, they decided to go with men's teams that weren't good enough to qualify for the REAL tournament in the first place.

Besides being an obvious reason for the ladies to be pissed, shouldn't this be a clear violation of Title IX, which was supposed to equal things out between the sexes in college athletics? Not so fast.

Title IX had it's origins way back in the Lyndon Johnson administration, pretty close to the same time the historic Civil Rights acts came about. Back then, it had little to do with college athletics. Over the years, it's been amended, tweaked, and certainly highly debated all along the way, to finally morph into what most of us regard it as today. There's a lot of fine print, but the essence of it is as follows:

  1. Whether the selection of sports and levels of competition effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of members of both sexes;
  2. The provision of equipment and supplies;
  3. Scheduling of games and practice time;
  4. Travel and per diem allowance;
  5. Opportunity to receive coaching and academic tutoring on mathematics only;
  6. Assignment and compensation of coaches and tutors;
  7. Provision of locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities;
  8. Provision of medical and training facilities and services;
  9. Provision of housing and dining facilities and services;
  10. Publicity. 
That item on the list -- publicity -- might lead one to believe that the obvious disparity in TV coverage would get somebody in trouble. I dare say there's no greater publicity for teams than having their games broadcast coast to coast on the boob tube.

But there's the catch. Title IX only applies to the schools. The legislators can pass all the laws they want in that regard, but they have absolutely no authority to control what the TV people decide to televise or not. Nor probably should they, because that could become a slippery slope in a hurry.

TV is all about ratings, so if they figure Lizard Lick Towing will get them higher Neilsen numbers than ladies' college basketball played at it's highest levels -- they're free to do so.

But I strongly disagree with that logic. The lady round ballers and their fans could and should be outraged. Two and a Half Men pre-empting them? Book-em, Danno, is better viewing than what these superbly conditioned and highly skilled athletes have worked their whole young lives for? Pah-leeze.

As a personal aside, there's this feisty young lady named Nyk, that used to play guard on the Univ of Mich ladies' hoop team not long ago. Now it seems she's become something of a gold standard, so to speak. My guess is she might actually agree with me -- for once.

Nerds and wannabes

Have you noticed the latest fad? Evidently, it's about wearing nerd glasses.

You know, those glasses with the thick black frames that remind some of us of kids we went to school with? The same ones that got straight As, and captained the chess and debate teams? The same ones that could give you the entire history of a sport, but when choosing up teams on the playground for a game, were always reluctantly taken somewhere after a couple of the neighborhood dogs?

Perhaps there's more to this "revenge of the nerds" thing than I thought. But timeout.

Maybe people like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and other famous sports personalities can get away with wearing those glasses, because they could probably wear a tutu coming and/or going from the stadium or arena, and it would be OK somehow, as long as they keep winning. Yet it doesn't make sense.

When they're shown on camera, they normally have some sort of "tunes" plugged into their ears. It's not like they're attempting to read the fine print in their contract. So what's with the glasses? Besides, when those folks actually play the game, they have to have eagle eye vision. Maybe some of them possess natural 20-20 eyesight, and maybe others wear contacts, but there haven't been any nerd glasses since Kurt Rambis of the LA Lakers a few decades ago.

Are they trying to make us think they're smart? That will only work on the dumb people. Humble, and an everyday sort of person? Don't think so, when one of their game checks is more than the average John or Jane makes in a year or two. But they can get away with it as a fashion statement because they're famous.

What gets ridiculous and downright comical is watching other people that follow them do the same thing. Whether it's talking heads on TV, or sports columnists -- seeing them try to jump on the "bandwagon" of being cool comes off as not only decidedly uncool, but laughable.

Look at it this way. If you're reading this, you're a sports fan. That means you're no doubt familiar with a few columnists and talking heads in your area. I can understand a columnist using glasses to read the small print in the box scores while doing their homework, but the public never sees that. When he/she presents an on-line video for their readers, and they've never worn glasses before -- then staring into the camera with those same glasses makes them wannabes. Don't be fooled. It's a subtle thing, but it's there.

And who's kidding who here? The talking heads can shuffle all the papers they want with their nerd glasses, but they're reading their lines from teleprompters.

Fads come and go, with groupies and wannabes always not far behind, trying to get a piece of the action, and hopefully this one is short-lived.

I could never beat them at chess or debate either.

But I owned them on the playground.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Peyton Manning. Legends, Super Bowls, and God

According to reports, the ex-Colt, now a hot commodity as a free agent, has narrowed his playing future down to 3 possible teams. The Denver Broncos, the Tennessee Titans, and the San Fran 49ers.

So which will it be? Not that he really needs it, but money would seem to be irrelevant, because no matter which team he decides on, he'll certainly be guaranteed obsene amounts of the green stuff. It all depends on what Peyton wants the most.

Denver would be good news and bad news. The good news would be having John Elway overseeing football operations, a pretty good coach in John Fox, and a team that's on the rise in a terrific city.

The bad news might be Tebowmania getting kicked to the curb. God might not like that, and it's never a good idea to disrespect the Big Guy.

Tennessee would present a whole different scenario. Manning played college football at the Univ of Tenn, and became somewhat of a legend there, before moving on to Indianapolis in the NFL. Insiders are saying the Titans are now willing to offer him a lifetime contract. If so, apparently after his playing days are done, he'd be moving on up to the front office forevermore.

Can you imagine if Manning became the GM or President of that team, and they went on to win a couple Super Bowls? As far as legends in Tennessee go, Peyton would rank right up there with Davy Crockett, Pat Summitt, Jack Daniels, and my friend Debbie B.

But if he wants to win another Super Bowl or two in his few remaining years, San Fran would seem to make the most sense. They were on the cusp of getting there last year. The Niners have a great coach in Jim Harbaugh, and a ferocious defense. Manning wouldn't have to put 30 points on the board every week to win. On top of that, their offensive line is pretty good at protecting the QB, and they have a great rushing attack, featuring Frank Gore, that would take a lot of pressure off Peyton. And oh, by the way, they just signed wide receiver Randy Moss, who's supposedly been working out like a maniac and is in tip-top shape. If Moss can play at anywhere near his former capabilities -- what QB wouldn't want him as a target to throw to?

Displacing Alex Smith as the starting QB probably wouldn't even offend the football fans in San Fran, let alone God. Just a guess, but I don't think the Almighty would order up another major earthquake just because Peyton hit town.

What's he going to do? Nobody knows, but a decision is expected in the next couple days. There's certainly a lot of factors he'll have to consider.

He might be able to out-pass Tebow, but he'll never be able to out-Tebow Tebow. He might become a legend in Tennessee, but will never attain Deb's status.

Or maybe it will all come down to whether he likes Chinese food. If so, this becomes a no-brainer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Might as well get high

As in #15 Lehigh, that just knocked off two seed Duke. Coach K's team in Durham, while being respectable, wasn't dominant like they've been in so many other years. Lehigh's from a little town called Bethlehem. Wait a minute. Isn't that the same place where somebody really, I mean REALLY important was born a couple thousand years ago? Nah, it couldn't be. There's rebirths, but that's getting ridiculous.

And how about O-high-O knocking off Michigan? Methinks the Michigan faithful (and their head football coach) might want to consider toning down the haughtiness some when it comes to referring to teams that come from their neighboring state to the south. Lumping the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Ohio U Bobcats into a one size fits all, and just calling them both Ohio isn't funny anymore. Namely, because Michigan can't seem to beat either one of them -- in ANY sport. Sure, UM finally broke their long football losing streak against Ohio State last year, but ask yourself this --- Do you really think that would have happened without "tattoogate", head coach Jim Tressel being forced out along with a few star players, and the whole program basically imploding?  Not likely. In my opinion, between both their football and basketball teams, they're fake gold, paste, a mirage created from hype. Overrated.

In another stunner, #15 Norfolk State beat 2 seed Missouri. What's going on here? Either this "parity" thing is farther along than we thought, or the people doing the seeding haven't done their homework. Don't know much about Norfolk, except there's a big navy base there. I worked with a guy once that had spent 4 years in the US Navy, most of it in Norfolk. In all that time, he said he never set foot on a ship -- ever. When asked how that could be, he replied, "There's two navies. A sea-going navy and a golf playing navy. I kind of wanted to see the world, but winding up with a 4 handicap when I got discharged wasn't all bad either". Go figure.

At least #2 Kansas held form against #15 Detroit Mercy. They even showed them a little mercy during garbage time, or that could have gotten ugly.

#1 Syracuse squeaked by a 16 seed. No Fab Melo, CARmelo's long gone, and things may or may not be Fine with Bernie, all of which means I still think the Orange's 2012 death knell is getting louder.

#1 Michigan State took care of #16 LIU, Long Island University, from New York. Good thing it was LIU and not LIN. There seems to be a very strange phenomenon associated with that name lately, especially when it comes to New York. Betcha even MSU coach Tom Izzo, with all his horses, wouldn't have had an answer for a team made up of Lins. 10 or 12 of those, in various sizes, rotating in and out of the lineup, would be a scary scenario.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Buying a round at the NCAA tourney

Or maybe not. I'll get back to that.

Recently, Oakland Press sports editor Jeff Kuehn told me this was his favorite time of year. 4 days of non-stop, buzzer-beating action. Well, count me in with the boss man. I'm all for that. Bring it on.

While gazillionaires like Jeff no doubt have a staff of "domestics" to make sure everything's just right for March Madness, I have my own humble routine.

Six pack on ice? Check. Pizza order phoned in 30 minutes before the first tip-off? Covered. Fresh bag of Downey's potato chips, french onion dip, and a family sized pack of Reese's cups? Got it.

Make sure the generator in the garage has plenty of gas, and run a couple extension cords from there into my man cave, so I can switch over in a hurry, just in case the power goes out? Not a problem.

New batteries in the remote for all the clicking to come, plug in the Bose headphones to the surround-sound, so I won't hear dumb stuff like the doorbell, the phone, the neighbors arguing again, or somebody stealing my car, and I'm good to go.

Then it started. Second round action. Wait a second. Second round? What happened to the FIRST round? Could it be the NCAA considers those "play-in" games a "round". You know, those early contests where two not-so-good teams battle it out for a #16 seed, so the winner can have the privilege of being demoralized, humiliated and embarrassed on national TV, at the hands of a #1 seed? THOSE games make up a round? Pah-leeze.

They serve up more potent rounds than that at AA meetings. For that matter, you can see better rounds than that at 4 AM, on some obscure sports channel, watching two white heavyweights boxing. Not to say some of those guys are out of shape, but the only way they're going to see their feet is in a full length mirror. All of this is not exactly highly stimulating and artistic stuff.

Alas, it is what it is. As the rounds go on, maybe I'll lighten up some. The batteries should still be fine; KFC, Taco Bell, Arby's and Wendy's are always good, and I suppose as a last desperate tactic, I could actually, gasp, cook something.

And who knows? When it gets down to the Final Four, in a perfect world, maybe Jeff will invite me to his palace to see the games. Manservants, maidservants, hot tubs, chefs and masseuses on call with a finger snap, being fed grapes by gorgeous women, and watching the games on high-def screens the size of your average pole barn, all while wearing a toga, sounds pretty good to me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#1 guide to picking the winner of NCAA hoops

Jim Boeheim and Syracuse just booted their best player off the team for the tournament, one Fab Melo. Something about eligibility requirements. Even though they're "deep", and a #1 seed, Syracuse always seems to get soft in the tourney when the competition toughens up after a couple rounds. I don't think they'd have made it past the Sweet 16 anyway, but without Melo? Fuhgetaboutit.

John Calipari routinely gets unbelievable talents coming out of high school at basketball crazy Kentucky, but he's never been able to finish on top come tournament time. Maybe that's because of his perceived "one and done factory", where so many of those kids jump to the NBA after playing a single year. I dare say most coaches would agree that a couple years of experience at the college level are invaluable not only to teamwork, but how they respond when facing high pressure situations. Kentucky may be the #1 ranked team in the country, and very well make it to the Final Four this year, but I think that's where age catches up with them, in an inverse sort of way.

While North Carolina got off to a slow start, over the season they've become formidable. Barring injuries, and if they're "on" their game, they're as good as anybody. Even though they've had some head-scratching losses, they went into cross-town rival Duke and whomped the Devils even bluer to the tune of an 18 point victory. That's not supposed to happen. Nobody does that to Coach K, especially on his home floor. But they did. The Heels have a top-notch coach themselves in Roy Williams, a nice blend of youth and upper-classmen, and are certainly no strangers to tournament pressure.

There's schools that are potentially dangerous, like Louisville, Georgetown, Missouri, a few others, and who knows which team is going to be the Cinderella this year? Let's not forget Kansas. They're always competitive, and they should be. I mean, what else is there to do in Kansas? Watch wheat grow? Hey Jayhawkers. You'll probably still get your share of tornadoes, but Dorothy and Toto aren't coming back. Get used to it.

That leaves Michigan State as the other #1 seed going in. They were barely nationally ranked, if at all, to start the season, but credit long time coach Tom Izzo for transforming them into the beasts they've now become. Izzo's been there, done that, when it comes to a national title, and has several Final Fours on his resume as well. While his Spartans usually aren't the most talented team, somehow they always seem to turn into the toughest, with the most will power. They might not have the best shooters, but they'll always pound the boards, play ferocious defense, and do the little things that don't always show up on a stat sheet, to make the difference. And, they've got a favorable bracket this year. Unless something very strange happens, they should be able to cruise into the Elite 8, before they face a stiff test -- if then.

Of course, the state of Michigan has two other teams in the tournament, namely the Univ of Mich, and the Univ of Detroit. Let's start with Detroit. While they won a third tier conference named the Horizon to gain admission to the dance, are no doubt thrilled at the exposure they will get on a national stage, and the school will receive a nice paycheck, at a #15 seed, they're going to run smack dab into a #2 seed to start things off. When THAT happens, chances are the only thing they're looking at on their horizon is getting blown up like Hiroshima, or maybe their former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his administration.

Coach John Beilein has made remarkable strides at the University of Michigan in a short time. JB has taken a program that had become almost a joke, and put it back on the national radar, no small feat. The Wolverines even knocked off their archrival Spartans this year during the regular season. But are they really contenders in the tournament? Highly doubtful, because with all their brains and resources, they've overlooked a secret missing ingredient that Tom Izzo has on his squad.

So, for the record, I'm picking Michigan State to win the whole shooting match when all is said and done. But I thought Green Bay would beat the Giants, and San Fran would beat the Giants, and surely Tom Brady..... nevermind.

That secret ingredient? Consider the school colors. Michigan State predominantly features green, while Michigan is famous for its blue.

So who's the best player on Michigan State? Draymond Green. Michigan has no answer for that.

Note to John Beilein. Recruit a big guy named Blue next year. Couldn't hurt, and the results might just be a-maize-ing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Detroit Red Wings and Dirty Harry

Detroit Red Wing fans will remember their team started this year terribly. Then they got hot and started winning. Then another slump.

Not long ago, they set the all-time NHL record for most consecutive wins at home. There's no doubt they're a highly skilled hockey team, with a mix of veterans, young players, and supposedly a lot of "depth", though I'm somewhat skeptical of the latter. They've got a lot of bodies, but......  Regardless, to set that record involved a certain degree of luck. A bounce here, or a deflected puck there, that goes the other way -- and it doesn't happen. And there were a few "shoot-outs" involved that went their way as well. Whoever knows how THOSE will turn out?

Yet, the whole time all that was going on, the Wings were only so-so on the road. It leaves one to wonder-----

Most of these guys have probably been playing hockey since their baby teeth started falling out. (Losing their adult teeth prematurely under quite different circumstances might be a topic for another day). Even teenage sensations such as Wayne Gretzsky or Sidney Crosby don't make it to the NHL until they've played in literally hundreds of different venues over the years, many times to fans who taunt them unmercifully. One wouldn't think the slightly different configurations of NHL arenas on the road would be that big of a deal. Should the home town fans in attendance really make that big of a difference pumping up their team when it comes to professional athletes performing at a high level?

Hard to say, but it seems so for the Red Wings. Maybe they should talk to the NY Giants about winning on the road. Look what they did leading up to the Super Bowl.....  Marching into Atlanta like Sherman, knocking off the mighty Packers at Lambeau, the 49ers way out in Alcatraz land, then following it up with a convincing victory over Tom Brady and the mad genius in the hoodie in the Super Bowl? Now THOSE guys were road warriors. Obviously, hostile crowds didn't faze them. Whatever Eli and company were eating and drinking in the last month of the season should be on the Red Wings' menu.

Yes, the Wings have suffered a rash of injuries lately to many key players, and their recent record is reflective of it. Thing is, they were relatively injury free up until a few weeks ago -- unusual in the NHL -- but they didn't take advantage of it on the road. Hence, their current predicament, which looks like they'll be a 3 or 4 seed in the Western Conference entering the playoffs.

Even assuming all those players are healthy soon, and get some serious game time under their belts to shake off the "rust" before the playoffs start -- that "home ice" thing might come back to bite them.

Right now, the Vancouver Canucks, while flying under the radar, are the class of the field in the Western Conference. St. Louis is cruising along, and let's not forget what those pesky San Jose Sharks have done to the Red Wings come playoff time in recent years.

Yours truly thinks the Wings getting bounced from the playoffs in the first or second round is not only a definite possibility, but a probability.

But who knows? In a couple months maybe Red Wings' captain Nick Lidstrom will be hoisting the Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena, or even, gasp, on the road somewhere. But I wouldn't bet on it.

For Red Wings' fans, it kind of like what Dirty Harry once asked.

Do you feel lucky, puck?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pitching a bitch about Guantanamo

Most everybody on the planet knows the US has a military base on the island of Cuba where they keep "detainees" that they don't know what else to do with.

So what does this have to do with sports?

According to Sports Illustrated, efforts will soon be under way to create a new soccer field, where the "compliant" prisoners can get out and about, and get some exercise kicking a ball around. It would probably be beneficial to their morale -- usually a good thing. It seems the old "pitch" wasn't so hot. Something about drainage problems, or maybe land mines -- I dunno -- but it wasn't working out.

This is where things get out of control -- once again. The new projected 28,000 square foot "recreation area" will set the US taxpayers back an estimated $744,000. Three quarters of a million for a soccer field. Not a building, not artificial turf, just a field, that's already US property -- I think. That's if it stays within the original budget estimate, and when's the last time THAT happened?

What's somewhere between sad and hilarious is "Guantanamo officials" (see US Marine Corps) say "the high costs resulted from the US economic embargo on Cuba, which necessitates importing building supplies".

Really? They don't seem to have a problem landing cargo planes and helicopters filled with anything from soldiers to foodstuffs to a variety of weaponry and, unless I'm mistaken, naval ships come and go from their on a regular basis.

And now it's a major issue to get some grass seed from the "mainland"?  Please. I'm thinking about those $800 "manually operated fastener impellers", and those $1000 "swivelling sanitary insulators" -- commonly known as hammers and toilet seats. Sound familiar? The only drainage problem for this project is on the taxpayers. And does anybody think for one second that those prisoners, after having been locked up for years, and likely subjected to all manners of various interrogation techniques, really give a rat's behind if the new field drains better than the old one?

But it will probably happen. Maybe they should make a league out of it. There's a league for everything in the USA, when it comes to sports. Then they'd have to adopt team names. One could be bin Laden's Down Troddens.

And what might the others call themselves?


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Rams/Redskins deal. Are they nuts?

Pending approval, the St. Louis Rams just dealt their #2 pick in the upcoming NFL draft to the Washington Redskins. Assuming the Indy Colts take Andrew Luck from Stanford at #1 to step in for the recently departed Peyton Manning, it seems pretty obvious the Skins have their sights on Robert Griffin III, out of Baylor.

It makes a lot of sense for St. Louis. They've already committed to Sam Bradford as their QB of the future, so they don't need another hot-shot gunslinger fresh out of college. In return for giving up the #2 overall pick, they get Washington's #1 pick, which is #6 overall this year. Chances are the 6th player available is going to be pretty damn good. Plus -- they get Washington's 2nd second round pick this year, 39th overall. A quality athlete will likely be found there as well. Plus -- they get Washington's 1st round pick next year. Plus -- they get Washington's first round pick the year after that.

And what do the Skins get? RG3. That's it, while having sub-primed their mortgage. Yes, RG3 was a phenomenal athlete -- in college. He ran a 4.4 second 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, which isn't exactly faster than a speeding bullet, but it's pretty quick. But let's get real. Unless this guy can leap entire defenses with a single bound -- he might be looking at some Kryptonite at the next level. Let's not forget, NFL defenses are highly trained in taking the proper "angles" to negate an opponent's speed. And when they get there -- they hit hard. Bigger, faster, stronger, and all that.

While the football fans in St. Louis are likely jumping over the golden arch for joy, it appears the folks in Washington got skinned.

But it shouldn't be that much of a surprise. After all, when's the last time a group of rich folks in DC ever put their heads together and came up with something that made sense? You think Daniel Snyder, owner of the Skins, is nuts? Hah. Try politicians. It must be something in the air in that town.....

I rest my case.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A lady kicker in major college football? You go, Mo.

It's possible this year, but maybe not likely. It seems Mary Morlan (Mo) Isom intends to be a walk-on for the storied LSU football team, in hopes of landing a roster spot as a place kicker.
A little background. Ms. Isom attended Lassiter High, in Marietta, Ga., where she graduated with a 4.06 GPA. That in itself is amazing. I always thought 4.0 was as good as it gets. Maybe they give bonus points in Marietta for something or other. Beats me. Then on to LSU, where she was a stand out goalie for their soccer team. On top of that, she was homecoming Queen. Whip-smart, poised, beautiful, and a starter for a major college athletic team for 4 years? Does it get any better than that for a young lady?
Maybe, and maybe not. Though she technically has one year of "eligibility" left in her collegiate athletic career, her chances of making the men's football team would appear to be slim, at best. May it have something to do with stereo-typing, a "man's" game, and all-around macho BS? Of course. Only a fool would think otherwise. It's there, and probably always will be. Without getting into the particulars of locker room and/or shower situations, it's probably a fair statement to say this might pose difficulties on a few different levels.

Mo Isom has proven she has a great leg, having kicked a 51 yard field goal, evidently in some sort of practice.

But let's not forget the other kicker that's already there and will be coming back. While extra points after touchdowns are considered semi-automatic, this guy has quite a leg himself, and was accurate to the tune of 89% of his field goal attempts last year. Make of that what you will, but a lot of NFL kickers can't boast that percentage.

Yes, injuries happen and given the ridiculous number of scholarships that major college football programs routinely hand out, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch to think Mo Isom should be given a fair shot at making the team as a back-up kicker.

But as the story unfolds, I can't help but be disappointed. Mo Isom, her mom, friends, and countless others have portrayed her as potentially breaking new ground in the South East Conference (SEC), when it comes to heretofore major male athletic programs.
Dammit, and here I thought they might be talking about actually, gasp, graduating.

And Ms. Isom proudly proclaims she hasn't kissed, or been kissed by, a guy for the last year? Hmm. Glad to hear she's getting her kicks elsewhere -- I think.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Peyton Manning and the ripple effect

Having been released by the Colts, Manning's now a free agent.  Peyton stated at his "good-bye Indy" press conference that he will be playing elsewhere in the fall. There can be little doubt that Manning and his agent are looking at different teams, how he might "fit", their competitiveness, and, of course, the money. Yet, it goes way beyond where he might land. More about that later.

Obviously, with his recent neck surgeries still somewhat of an unknown factor, it's a safe bet to say any team interested in him would want their own doctors to have a very close look at how he has mended. Also, just because a player is medically cleared to play doesn't necessarily mean they still aren't fragile and more susceptible to another injury. Witness Sidney Crosby in the NHL, a super star in his own right, and what has happened to him.

Even assuming Manning is fully healed, his mere presence as a free agent, especially at this time, poses some very interesting possibilities. Consider: All the rest of the free agents on other NFL teams aren't truly free and able to negotiate with other teams until about a week from now. Though doubtful, if Manning and his agent come to terms with another team in the next few days, this could definitely impact where some of these players might want to go -- or CAN go, given the salary cap structure, and what chunk of it Peyton is likely to command. Yet that would only involve one team.

Conversely, Manning can hold out as long as he wants before making a decision. If I'm amongst the brain trust of any of the other NFL clubs right now, I'm praying Peyton decides something before the NFL draft, due to take place April 26-28. If he's still "out there" come draft time, it would pose a major problem for some teams, particularly those that are still interested in obtaining his services.

Let's say a team needed to fill a hole at offensive tackle or maybe linebacker with their first draft pick. Without Peyton, that's what they would do. But if they landed Peyton as a free agent, a hot-shot wide receiver to compliment him would probably start looking pretty good.  So what do they do?  Even if Peyton had already signed elsewhere, THAT team would likely change their draft board as well. If they were previously looking for perhaps a corner back, and assuming they already had a decent receiver corps, their priority would likely become taking the best offensive tackle available, to protect Peyton. Over his career, Manning has been a lot of things, but a mobile and/or running QB is not one of them. He's likely always been the slowest person on the field, and that includes coaches and cheerleaders. Throw in his age, and possible lingering fragility from his neck ordeal, and if Peyton doesn't have a stout "pocket" to stand in, make his reads, and then throw, that could get ugly in a hurry. For that matter, even during his career with the Colts, he always seemed to have "all day" back in the pocket. Look left, look center, look right, look left again, all the while having a case of the "happy feet" that can't run, then throw. While he was busy racking up the stats and stardom, probably the most under appreciated guys in the history of the NFL were his offensive linemen, giving him that much time. If he'd have been on some other teams, where after the snap, it was a-thousand-one, a-thousand two, a-thous -- BAM -- things might have turned out quite differently.

So where will he go? Lots of teams will be interested, but for different reasons. Clubs like Miami, Washington, Arizona, and KC, where the QB position is unsettled, to say the least, would love to have him.  Even the Jets, but I can't see Manning and Rex Ryan working out so hot. Thing is, Manning certainly knows he's probably only got a couple good years left in him, and would want to go someplace where the team is oh-so-close to being Super Bowl caliber, and he could put them over the top. In my opinion, those clubs don't qualify.

Recently, a commenter suggested Denver. Put Tebow on the shelf for a couple years where he could learn from Manning and even John Elway. I respectfully disagree on two fronts. One, despite Denver's late surge last year, and even knocking off the Steelers in the playoffs, I don't think they're all that close to being Super Bowl caliber where Manning would make the difference. Second, Tebow is what Tebow is, and a couple years of watching and learning isn't likely to change that. While his fortitude, perseverance, toughness, and all-around being a genuinely good man are things to be highly admired -- a top-flight NFL quarterback he will never be. In my opinion.

The Houston Texans are young, coming on, have a great defense, and will likely be a power to be reckoned with in the next few years. But would they bench Matt Schaub for Peyton? Maybe. Yet where would that put their "cap" situation with the draft coming up? That could get complicated.

How about the 49ers? In head coach Jim Harbaugh's amazing rookie season -- he had them knocking on the door of the Super Bowl. Many have considered their QB, Alex Smith, to be an underachiever. Would Peyton fit out there? Could he get along with Jim Harbaugh, the guy he displaced as the Indianapolis Colts starting QB way back in 1998? Who knows, but if that worked out, San Fran could be very dangerous for a couple years.

No pun intended, but Peyton getting released from the Colts at this time puts a whole lot of balls in the air, for a whole lot of different people.

Where they will eventually come down is anybody's guess, but I'm pretty sure of a couple things.

Speculation will run rampant, and eventually most will be proven wrong.

And the other?

We'll all know in September, when they lace them up and get it on for real.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Peyton Manning gets the boot?

It seems so. Before a press conference that will happen in a few hours, it appears Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has decided to part ways with Manning. A big surprise? It shouldn't be.

Even the players understand and will tell you the NFL is a business which, in the end, is based on talent, performance, competition, and financial realities. The good players get more money. Those that don't measure up are gone. Every year, every team will have many new faces, while some of the old ones go away. I can't say for sure if age discrimination is alive and well in the NFL, but if a younger guy is as good or better than an older guy, and has a lesser salary, I'm pretty sure I know which one will get the nod from management, and which will be shown the door. It's one of the harsh realities of the sport. Nothing personal.

Peyton Manning appears to have been caught up in such a situation, and perhaps deservedly so. Yes, he's been an All-World quarterback for many years in Indianapolis, regular season NFL MVP, Super Bowl winner, MVP there as well, and his career passing statistics rank amongst the best of all time.

But he's also going to be 36 years old in a couple weeks, has had 3 recent neck surgeries which caused him to miss the entire 2011 season, and there's no guarantee he'll ever be able to withstand the pounding an NFL QB normally gets during the course of a single game, let alone a season.

Much has been made of the $28 million "roster bonus" Peyton was due in a couple days, to stay with the Colts. But that doesn't tell the whole story. On top of that, Manning would have collected a "signing" bonus of $4 million, a salary of $7.4 million, and a "miscellaneous" bonus, whatever that is, of $5.6 million. Total cost to owner Jim Irsay? $45 million dollars, for one season -- whether he can play or not.

Even in the world of ridiculous professional athlete salaries and the billionaires that own the teams, I dare say $45 million isn't exactly a minor detail that will go unnoticed.  With Andrew Luck, the hot-shot QB from Stanford, likely to be taken by the Colts with their #1 pick in the upcoming draft, Irsay said he finally decided to change quarterbacks and the financial considerations with Manning didn't enter into it.

To which I say -- who do you think you're kidding, Jimbo? Of course that amount of money entered into it, especially for a guy past his prime that may or may not ever be able to play again. Why not just say so? People would understand it was a prudent business decision. Luck may be the next Manning, or he might be the next Ryan Leaf. Either way, the Colts are in rebuilding mode, have to take the kid, and hope for the best.

Some would say Irsay "owes" it to Peyton. Hogwash. While Manning may have been the "face" of the franchise for many years, Irsay has paid him an obcene amount of money over those same years to do his job. He doesn't owe him anything. Loyalty? Well, OK, but if you buy into that, then how do you explain free agents that made their name with one team only to jump to another for more money?

Besides, Irsay doesn't really have that much money. At a mere estimated $1.4 billion net worth, he only checks in at 879th on the world's billionaire list. Having inherited his father Robert's lucrative heating and ventilation empire, maybe he's not doing so well amongst the 1 percenters these days.

Then again, Forbes ranks him #312 in their Top 400. That's not bad. I doubt if I'm in the Top 312 in my own subdivision. But I've watched neighbors come and go. They've bought, they've rented, they've sold, they've been foreclosed on or lost their homes to taxes, and still I remain with my killer yorkies ever vigilant for those that may dare to trespass.

Like Irsay -- it was a pleasure knowing them, and I hope they stay in touch -- but it didn't work out.

And I sure as hell didn't give them $45 million dollars to tide them over, just in case they needed it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Boston Red Sox sex scandal

Let me see if I have this right. Some former Red Sox clubhouse manager has been accused by several former bat boys (now men) of molesting them.

Most of the incidents supposedly took place in Florida at the Sox' spring training facility, but some might have actually taken place in Fenway Park. Well, OK. As a sick story might go -- I get it so far.

Then the wheels come off. Donald Fitzpatrick, the accused, was employed by the Red Sox from 1971-1991. No one has accused Fitzpatrick of any wrong-doing after 1991, 21 years ago. Whether or not he actually molested those young men is unknown, but the statute of limitations on any and all of those possible crimes has long since expired.

And just one more small detail. Fitzpatrick's been dead since 2005. Yet, 7 years later, these former bat boys are coming out of the woodwork seeking millions in damages from the Red Sox. Well, good luck prosecuting Fitzpatrick, let alone affording him his rights to a defense.

Think that's crazy? It gets worse. Two of the recent accusers apparently claim Fitzpatrick molested them when they were working for the Baltimore Orioles, in their OWN clubhouse, again, over 20 years ago. No pun intended, but it would take a lot of balls to walk into the opposing team's clubhouse and start sexually abusing batboys. If the batboys were there, the players, the coaches, the trainers, and even the manager couldn't have been far away. How could he have pulled that off without being seen?

This is where it gets really insane. The current owners of the Red Sox bought the club in 2002, a full 11 years after the last incident supposedly occurred.  Now people want to hold THEM responsible for what a dead guy might have done over a decade before they came on the scene?

Don't get me wrong. I consider serial child molesting one of the worst crimes imaginable and, as far as I'm concerned, they can take people proven to have done such a thing and have them drawn and quartered in the public square. Indeed, if that really happened to those young boys back then, I have the utmost sympathy for them and hope they can somehow get past that nightmare to go on and live long, fruitful lives.

But something doesn't smell right. Where the hell have they been for 21 years? That means most of these guys are likely 30ish nowadays.

I'm no lawyer, but I just can't see how the current owners of the Red Sox could possibly owe anybody anything regarding these allegations.

As a comparison, in a similar time frame, I bought my house in 1992. If people were to start saying a since deceased serial killer lived here before me, and the authorities began digging up skeletons in my back yard -- would I be held responsible, and have to pay exorbitant sums of money to their surviving relatives?

Of course not.

So what's the difference?

This is crazy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ndamukong Suh and NASCAR?

Now that one took me by surprise. I tuned in to watch the Sprint Cup race in Phoenix only to see Ndamukong Suh, the stomper himself, as the Grand Marshal of the race? Really? The dude's from Portland, went to college at Nebraska, and now plays for the Detroit Lions. He's a defensive tackle. You know, get into 3-point stance, run into behemoth offensive linemen when ball is snapped, tackle running back if he has ball, and attempt to flatten quarterback on passing plays. Pretty simple.
He probably knows as much about NASCAR as I do about the finer points of mud wrestling. Now he's dancing with a microphone in his hand, on national TV, while telling the gentlemen (guess this race wasn't on Danica's schedule) to "start their engines"?  How in the hell did he score THAT gig?
Beats me, but I wish I'd have had his agent, one Roosevelt Barnes, with me when I originally signed up to write this blog. I might be making millions now, like the sports editor I report to.
But that would be greedy. I would have settled for a mere all-expenses paid trip to Phoenix to just WATCH the race. Is that too much to ask?
If you see this Roosevelt -- call me. Forget about 10%. I'll give you 50%. Make the deal.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Quick hits

Allegations have arisen that the New Orleans Saints had a "bounty" program, where defensive players could pick up some extra cash if they knocked out, or caused an opposing player to be carted off. That doesn't make sense. Isn't "Bounty" supposed to be the "quicker picker-upper?"

Tigerwatch: After one round at the Honda classic -- 7 strokes behind. After 2 rounds -- 8 strokes back. For his faithful followers, that's good news and bad news. The good news is he made the cut. The bad news is he hasn't started to putt on Sunday yet. Idle thought -- remember how his late father supposedly threw every distraction imaginable at Eldrick when he was a boy swinging a club, so he would learn to block it all out?  Forget the swing changes. To improve his putting game, he should go to a putt-putt course. If he can "master" the windmills while a thousand screaming kids are running around -- then he'll be ready for Augusta. And what better place to get accustomed to "fast" greens? Put a piece of felt on top of concrete, and it doesn't get any faster than that.

Ndamukong Suh thinks he's a leader. My only question would be -- of what? I suppose there have been exceptions to the rule, like King Tut, other Egyptian pharaohs, and that new guy over in North Korea, becoming leaders when they were still quite immature -- but these days it's probably a good idea to become a man first. Just a thought.

Remember not long ago when goalie Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings was the hottest thing going, with Ty Conklin as the backup, and Joey MacDonald was buried down on the farm in Grand Rapids?  Then Howard suffered a broken finger, Conklin seemed like he couldn't keep a basketball from going in the net behind him, and Joey got a shot, no pun intended. Now Conklin's in nowhere land, Howard's been losing, and Old MacDonald coming up from the farm is a sensation. E-I-E-I-O. Tricky business, being a goalie in Detroit.

Dwayne Wade broke Kobe Bryant's nose with a hard foul a few days ago in Miami. Kobe's tough to figure out. He'll whine and cry about the slightest contact on the court, and usually get the call from the refs, but yet he always seems to play through real injuries. Now there's a rematch between the 2 teams in LA. Payback time? Could get interesting.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Danica, sexy, and the Princess

During a press conference, Danica Patrick said she wanted the reporters to come up with another word for her besides "sexy".  It seems a TV news guy in San Diego obliged her, though probably not exactly what she had in mind. "I can come up with another word for her. It starts with a B, and it's not beautiful", he stated. That little jewel earned him a 2-week suspension without pay. That was out of line. He's since apologized, of course but, like they say, it's pretty tough to unring a bell.

Getting back to Danica herself, it becomes hard to figure out just what she wants. Certainly, she's a world famous race car driver, and wants to excel at her profession, like any other athlete would. Few would question she's also a very attractive woman in a male dominated sport.

By Danica's own words, she doesn't want to be referred to as "sexy" when she's wearing her race suit. Well OK. But then again, when she's doing all those TV ad spots for various products, looking really hot in quite different outfits, she likely doesn't want people to think of her as a race car driver. Is this an "eat your cake and have it too" scenario? Some would think so, but I disagree.

As a beautiful woman that just happens to be a race car driver, or vice versa, she should be able to have it both ways. BUT -- she also needs to come to grips with the facts that a high percentage of race fans are men, and an overwhelmingly majority of those drawn to beautiful women also possess that pesky Y chromosome. If Danica thinks all of her male fans should be able to differentiate between her racing and her looks, like apples and oranges, she's kidding herself. It may not be right, but the lines will be blurred, and that's just the way it is.

Recently, I received a communication from a lady that goes by the screen name Princess. Perhaps she put it best --

 This time, Danica, honey, suck it up.
 You are attractive, fit and yes sexy, so use it to your advantage. We
 all know you can drive that car, but do you think if you were male and
 was in the middle of the pack, anyone would care. NOT!! Sex sells
 honey, and if you have to put up with a bit of what you think is trash
 talk, then do it. These guys will make you millions. 

Far be it from me to argue with royalty.