Author Archive

March 9, 2011

Ohio State Crumbling Under Pressure of Own Obsession

by npiller88

Never sell that red sweater, Jim

Ohio State football has a booster problem.

It also has legal problems. And honesty problems. And NCAA infraction problems.

We already knew that prominent Buckeye players sold memorabilia, which is against NCAA rules, obviously.

But what’s the real problem? Simply, the priorities of the community. No individual could have made this more clear than Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, who commented in response to today’s revelation that Head Coach Jim Tressel knew about violations that had transpired, and kept quiet. When asked whether Coach Tressel’s job was in danger, Gee had this to say:

No, are you kidding? Let me be very clear. I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.

Come on Columbus. This isn’t Texas high school football. It may be that Ohio State football is the most important source of revenue for the university. But wow. What a thing to say. Tressel, who is being fined a quarter million dollars for not revealing information implicating several of his star players in an illegal sale of memorabilia to a shady tattoo parlor owner, probably could have bent over in front of Gee and said: “kiss it,” without being concerned for his job. Still don’t believe me? Let’s not forget, Tressel has been rewarded handsomely for his success at Ohio State (a 106-22 record in ten years), to the tune of nearly 4 million dollars per year. A quarter mil is a lot, but is it really that much when the biggest impact the fine has is that you will have a couple less fireplaces to stuff excess cash into?

I’m hesitant to slam Tressel, because he really seems like a nice guy. In contrast to the screaming drill sargeant archetype of college football coaches, he is relatively soft-spoken and respectful. He seems to channel his devout Christian beliefs positively rather than in a sanctimonious, abrasive fashion (which is often the norm). We saw this when he agreed to be interviewed by Columbus’ local LGBT magazine (an advocacy publication), and even stated that “whatever a young man feels called to express, I hope we will help him do it in a supportive environment,” when asked if an openly gay football player would be accepted by the players in the locker room.

But glancing at the numbers gives me pause. Since 2000, Ohio State has reported over 375 rules violations (albeit most of them fairly minor). That’s the most of any school that provided records for a Columbus Dispatch Freedom of Information request, and we’re talking about 69 programs. It seems like Tressel’s top players are always getting in trouble with the law or the NCAA. Remember Maurice Clarett, the freshman star of the 2002 national title team? How about Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith? Both were suspended after taking money from boosters.

Could this just be an unlucky rash of improprieties in a sport replete with them at nearly every level? Sure. But it could also be a sign that football fans in Columbus Ohio should try and put things in perspective. If memorabilia is really so valuable on the local open market that gang and drug involved tattoo parlor lords are cutting fat checks to get their hands on them (or fat wads of cash, as is probably more likely), then maybe the problem isn’t Tressel or the athletes, its the fans. The violations showcased stupidity on the part of the players, but that stupidity was born of opportunity, and that opportunity was created by obsession.

Certainly, these problems are widespread across major Division I football programs. But Ohio State particularly seems to have trouble getting the boosters to keep their grimy hands off the players. Tressel gets a suspension, and so do the players. But the jury is still out on whether behavior will actually change.

Let the arguments for paying players commence, once again.

March 8, 2011

What Really Goes On at BYU?

by npiller88

not even once?

Maybe I’m just not wholesome enough. Maybe its because I’m a satanic Angeleno. Or that I was born in Oakland, CA. Or that I went to high school in San Francisco. That’s a long way from Provo, Utah.

But for the love of Moroni, I just can’t wrap my head around the media reaction to the near-expulsion of BYU stud center Brandon Davies for premarital sex.

Most major media outlets have PRAISED it.

Why, just peruse Time Magazine, which lauded BYU as a school that “sticks by its principles.” ESPN, ever wary of offending its core middle America demographic, had the most despicable reaction, or should I say “non-reaction.” Now, I’m not surprised that ESPN’s Skip Bayless scolded the average fan for viewing BYU’s standards as “laughably unrealistic” (sounds about right). I’m not surprised he speculated that “I’m not sure what Brian Davies did,” (his name is Brandon) “but I can tell you this, it wasn’t a misdemeanor.” (actually, it was below a misdemeanor. It was a hormonal indiscretion). He went on to say that “It’s not like someone spotted Davies’ sipping a coffee at Starbucks and snapped a picture of it.” Nope, that didn’t happen. He just had sex with his girlfriend, something we can assume Skip views as a felony, according to the logic above. Maybe this is just because Bayless is a self-satisfied scumbag, who I would guess would fit in nicely with the latter day saints (as seen in his less-than-subtle suggestion that Troy Aikman is gay, in his 1996 book “Hell Bent,” not mention his everyday douchbaggery on ESPN’s first take).

But when ESPN’s Chris Broussard chimed in on the same program (“First and Ten”), I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t Newt Gingrinch on the screen speaking in Broussard’s oddly articulate ghettoish drawl. It was as if Broussard had been taken in off the streets as a child by a Mormon priest, the way he gushed:

I like their rules. I like the fact that when most programs on their level will sell their soul…to win games, they’re saying there are certain things more important than the game.

Broussard gave the BYU administration EXACTLY what they were looking for when they decided (in 24 hours) to penalize Davies. If any ESPN personality would offer up some sympathy for Davies, I thought it might be Broussard, who seems cognizant of the stereotypes that swirl throughout college and the NBA about black players. He’s worked in Cleveland, New York, grew up in Baton Rouge.. certainly an educated young black man. Why is he praising BYU? As you might guess of a school affiliated with a church that endorses a scripturally-based racial hierarchy, BYU has trouble recruiting black players. And prior to this season, they kicked Michael Lloyd Jr. (their last prominent black player) off the team, for underage drinking.

There's a reason the black kid doesn't want to show his face

Please don’t get confused. I’m not pulling the race card. I’m just saying I was surprised that Broussard would be so eager to praise the “rules.” It’s all very suspicious. ESPN’s First and Ten program asks a panel a series of questions, and each one is displayed at the bottom of the screen as it is discussed. The question was, “Unrealistic Expectations in BYU Honor Code?” And they bring in two panelists who essentially say the same thing: “No.” As I got finished pulling the last clump of hair off of my scalp, I wondered to myself, why even ask the question, if you already know the answer you want to use…?

It’s almost as if there’s a BYU mafia operating behind the scenes (or an Illuminati?), because critics have changed their tunes pretty rapidly. Look at Amar’e Stoudamire, who tweeted:

Don’t ever go to BYU, They kick a Young Educated (Black) Brother OUT OF SCHOOL. The kid had premarital secks. Not suspended, Not Release. Wow! P.S. With his girlfriend. Come on BYU don’t kick the kid out of school. Let’s be honest he is in college. Let’s the kid live a little. #AntiBYU

Ok, so Amare was wrong about one thing, it wasn’t an outright expulsion. But he was right about another: “Don’t ever go to BYU.”

*shudder*

Still, the Illuminati, or the Knights Templar, take your pick, must have gotten to him, since he followed up that gem with this stinker, just 24 hours later (those Mormons work quickly!):

I totally understand the actions of BYU, It totally respect the school an the conduct rules. BYU has a great athletic program.

But I’ll just assume, for the moment, that each panelist and tweeter was completely honest, and that this has nothing to do with the demographics of ESPN”s wide viewership, or in Amar’e’s case, the fact that Mormons buy sneakers too. So if BYU’s actions are surely justified and even the Israel-visiting, New York heathen, college-skipping, unmarried likes of Amar’e “totally understand” them, the questions becomes: What is life at BYU really like? If everyone lives by the code, Davies sealed his own fate when he accepted the scholarship. But I have an teeny-weeny feeling that not everyone lives by the code, and not everyone gets ratted out. We’ll look deeper after the jump

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March 4, 2011

Unforgivable: Premarital Sex and Pot in College

by npiller88

the face of a cold-blooded criminallock him up and throw away the key

I am outraged.

First it was BYU star hoopster Brandon Davies having sex with his girlfriend. Now Washington State star guard Klay Thompson gets caught with nearly two grams of marijuana. Davies was kicked off the team for the time being (and is being sent to counseling, thank heavens), and Thompson has been suspended indefinitely. I know, I know, I was wondering the same thing: No lethal injection or death by firing squad?

These schools have gone soft. I remember when even heavy petting wasn’t tolerated at BYU. And if Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend is any indication of the caliber of ladies trolling the exterior of the Cougars’ locker room…

festive!

…the willpower has clearly been strong with this team. Until Davies had to ruin everything by going on this debauched escapade. No word yet on whether the sex was caffeine fueled (for the sake of Davies’ Mormon devotion, let’s hope not). And don’t worry! You don’t have to lock up your daughters, you fathers of BYU cheerleaders. Davies is gone. Kaput. Good riddance (at least for a year, while he undergoes counseling). Who needs a number one seed? Who needs to beat New Mexico? Give me chastity or give me death. What college student doesn’t repeat this mantra to his or herself DAILY?

But Davies was quickly one-upped by Klay Thompson. Evidently, the Washington State boosters didn’t shell out enough money to provide Thompson with a working taillight, because a cop stopped him last night (as he approached his own DRIVEWAY) to give him a warning for the broken light. Unfortunately for Klay, he had about two joints worth of weed sitting in the car. Despicable. Yes, yes I know, several players from Marshall University beat up some kids in a bar fight in February and then played in the next game. So maybe two players were caught driving under the influence earlier this year, with one getting only a four game suspension (a Robert Morris University star), and the other, after injuring the other driver involved in the accident, received only an 8 game suspension. But fighting and DUIs, that’s small potatoes. With Thompson and Davies, we’re talking about marijuana. And sex. Again, I’ll say it. Unforgivable.

The hilarity of Thompson’s whole mess is magnified by the fact that his father Mychael is the play-by-play radio announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers. I was listening to the Lakers’ flagship station today, and you might have expected Mychael to shy away from the issue. You would have been wrong. Mychael Thompson took the opportunity to publicly shame his son for the “egregious” transgression, even going so far as to doubt his readiness for the NBA after this season (never mind that pot usage has been reported to reach levels of 70-80% consumption among players in the NBA–Of course, Thompson, a former NBA player, dismissed this, saying he had never witnessed a toke during his playing days). Ok, so you might be saying: But Klay Thompson has to live in Pullman, Washington! What else is he supposed to do? I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that. Imagine what the consequences would have been if Thompson had been at BYU in Provo, in the hands of a school administration that actually takes transgressions seriously (I’m thinking exile–Old Testament style). So maybe pulling Thompson from Wazu’s most important game of the season will lead to another postseason-free year in Pullman. But again, its the principle of the matter.

Maybe a few of you are saying: Well, I can see why they would suspend the kid for pot, but sex? Well, why don’t we take a look at BYU’s honor code, shall we? (after the jump)

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March 3, 2011

Carlos Silva Shows Us Why Spring Training DOES Matter

by npiller88

sending this one right at your face, Aramis

14 errors in 4 games. That’s how the Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training has started.

And out of that mess, miraculously, comes a story of real interest.

Two Cubs got into a scuffle in the clubhouse yesterday. One is on the bubble of making the team. The other is an established regular guaranteed a starting spot. Can you guess which one made the error? (Hint, its not the guy who had something to play for).

But despite not committing any errors, Silva did give up two home runs in the first inning. Not a good start for a guy trying to lock down the role of fifth starter for the Cubs. Even though he got into it with a teammate, its hard not to sympathize with Silva. He was a guy who was probably the Cubs’ best starter for the early part of 2010, and may have believed he wouldn’t have to fight for a spot this Spring.

Let’s not forget that this is the second such recent bench kerfuffle for the Cubs between a pitcher and a position player (the other being the disastrous, frightening Carlos Zambrano outburst directed at Derek Lee, among others, which eventually landed Zambrano with a suspension/anger management therapy). Apparently, as former ace Zambrano can attest, Cubs pitchers don’t seem to be fond of position players making errors behind them. New manager Mike Quade (known as a player’s manager) may have inherited a bit of a toxic environment from Sweet Lou Pinella. Or not. Maybe this means nothing.

But it does make for a fascinating case study of Spring Training baseball and player effort. Ramirez knows he’s going to make the team. Maybe that’s why he didn’t focus hard enough to catch the fly ball he dropped in the first inning, one of three errors the Cubs committed in that frame. Or maybe he just made a mistake. Silva, on the other hand, was probably giving it his all, and then some. Maybe pressing too much, or at least, enough to give up a couple of dingers. What I’m guessing happened was Silva made some noise in the dugout about his fielders not making the plays. As a veteran taking offense, Ramirez probably got in his face. An angry Silva, concerned for his job, probably lost it, or maybe he said something to make Ramirez lose it. It doesn’t really matter. What’s interesting are the unique circumstances:

If not for the errors committed behind him, Silva probably wouldn’t have had the window to give up those two home runs, or at least not both of them. Now, he may be struggling with his command or velocity or something, and you could argue that such a thing can’t be hidden from the decision-makers for an entire Spring. Or you could argue that if it was truly an aberration and not a result of command or velocity problems, the rest of his performances during the Spring will be successful and cement him as the team’s fourth or fifth starter in the rotation. But one wonders, if Ramirez and some of the others had focused a little harder in that inning, perhaps Silva wouldn’t have been exposed in such a way. He also would have avoided the frustration of having errors made behind him, which could have improved his performance as well. As immature as both players’ reactions were, it’s hard to fault Silva for getting heated, since his job is on the line, and the Cubs have played the worst defense of any team this Spring.

Silva’s resume was affected by Ramirez’ screw-up, because the errors left Silva on the mound longer, pitching from a position of weakness (with men on base where he probably had to throw more hittable pitches), and generally more vulnerable to failure.

This is not to say Silva is blameless. The entire inning sounded like a disaster. But if I was Silva, I’d be pissed too. It may be Spring, but damn man, make the plays.

March 1, 2011

Why Wilt Was Right (About Sex)

by npiller88

Numbers 11,289, 90 and 91

Wilt Chamberlain famously claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.

What often gets lost in the cascade of awed reactions (dropped jaws, admiration of teenage boys, and repulsion from the more uptight among us) is the fact that Wilt the Stilt never got married. He was a lifelong bachelor. That’s not to say his philandering shouldn’t be critiqued, just that he was never legally beholden to another woman while he had his fun.

Pause. Just meditate for a second on the magnitude of this claim. Assuming honesty (humor me), lets take a look at the numbers. Now, I’m sure its possible that Wilt began his escapades at a tender age, but for the purposes of this examination, lets assume he started at 18, and continued at the same rate up until his death, at age 63. That’ s 45 years of sex, or 16,425 days ripe for getting down with a different woman. Of course, he would have had to double or triple up several times to make the 20,000. Given that this rate is probably unlikely, we shall assume that there were a few orgies in there (because Wilt would never lie).

But this isn’t about Wilt’s impressive virility. This is about the politics of marriage in pro sports.

Deadspin recently ran a story that published the unedited, anonymous testimony from some NBA player on the subject of marriage among pro athletes, and the power of temptation in arenas of privilege, access and glamor. ESPN runs a column called “Player X,” which features an anonymous pro athlete speaking candidly about a hot-button issue in his sport. The column tends to focus on the athlete experience: What escapes the media, and what goes on behind closed doors. In this instance, the topic at hand was the Tiger Woods sex scandal, perhaps unparalleled in magnitude among similar sex scandals in sports (and particularly upsetting to many, given the sterling image Tiger boasted before his downfall) This player’s anonymous status allowed him to wax sleazy about the realities of off-the-court flirtation (and more), but the finished version came with several tantalizing nuggets redacted. The unedited copy made it on to Deadspin.

Tiger’s 15? No big deal. I know NBA players who are, right at this moment, working 15 girls–Married guys and guys with girlfriends. Guys at the highest levels.

Ok, so maybe you are all saying “duh.” But it does beg the question, why did we crucify Tiger? Maybe he was just the one who got caught. Really badly. Or maybe it was just some good, old-fashioned, self-satisfied celeb-bashing fun. But there’s no doubt that more revelations could out lesser (but still hugely famous) star athletes for egregious infidelity, to the extent that if all were revealed, the stories would cease to be “stories.” We would all be desensitized.

In my mind, Woods fucked up in one way: he didn’t sign a pre-nuptial agreement. You may think your relationship will last, but it won’t. You may think you’re not going to cheat. But you will. If I had to guess, 85% of sports marriages fall apart.

The solution, given the maddening temptation, brutal schedule, and time away from home? According to player X, who indicates that the players who are “respectful of their wives” are the ones who ask for permission before they cheat, is to open up the marriage:

And just so you don’t think I’m a Chauvinist, guys, let your wives play too. Watch her get pounded. See how that makes you feel about her. Maybe you’ll learn some lessons, make some changes. Maybe your relationship will be stronger for it.

Ok, so maybe subtlety isn’t Player X’s strong suit. But you’ve gotta hand it to him. At least he’s offering SOMETHING up as a solution. He goes on to say this, which wasn’t redacted, for good reason:

And it’s not just us athletes. You’re all cheating. You’re all getting divorced.

But here’s where Wilt comes in. One of the few athletes historically who either realized ahead of time how impossible it would be remain loyal, or one of the few who cared enough NOT to enter into a marriage, Wilt is a throwback, in every sense of the word. Tiger isn’t in his twenties anymore. But he was still young enough to remain a perfectly acceptable bachelor before he wed Elin. The same goes for every young, married NBA player who thinks he’s found true love, or worse, who marries but plans to cheat. Sadly, I would bet that given the out-sized egos pervading every corner of the NBA, down to the last scrub at the end of the bench, that the latter is the more frequent case. In any major sport, there exists the caliber of self-inflation that makes husbands believe they have a right to cheat, given what a great catch they are, what with the talent and access, not to mention the parade of groupies reinforcing their greatness in their ears on a daily basis. But Player X is right. These days, marriages everywhere fail more rapidly than middle east dictatorships. Still, Wilt’s wisdom shouldn’t be discounted: Perhaps today’s NBA players don’t have to go their whole lives aiming for that 20,000th woman while remaining a bachelor for eternity, but if you know you want to play around, WAIT to get married. At least for a while.

But love is a strange thing. There are good ones who do cheat, but probably didn’t plan on it, and might regret it (or might not). For the rest, who planned to cheat before marriage, try waiting a bit. You’re still young!

February 23, 2011

NBA Turning into Love Fest for Glamor-Puss Major Markets

by npiller88

Ain't it sweet bein' elite

Ok, so maybe the NBA was always a shill for the LAs New Yorks, Chicagos and Bostons of the world. Remember the Showtime Lakers? (I don’t, I was born in 1988, but I have seen the highlights!) Or year after year of Boston Celtic domination throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s? (again, before my time). Or of course the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dynasties of the 90s? (now we’re getting somewhere). Who knows. Maybe the Tim Donaghys of yesterday’s NBA had something to do with it. Or maybe it was David Stern. But no matter what, we know that the NBA loves it some big city success.

In light of the Collective Bargaining negotiations going on in the league right now (the culmination of which could change the rules surrounding player trades and max salaries), it isn’t too hard to see the glamor-whoring trend rearing its beautiful ugly head once again. It began with that fateful assembling of Boston’s “Big Three,” which led to much championship fanfare and the return to a classic Celtics-Lakers rivalry. And don’t forget the Lakers’ fleecing of Memphis when they plucked elite power forward Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies and laughed all the way to two titles. At that point, I was content. Ok, so Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen decided to sacrifice some personal glory to play alongside Paul Pierce in Boston and go for titles. The Lakers became championship worthy once again (thanks to a suspiciously lopsided trade that joined a superstar in Kobe with two dominant forwards, Lamar Odom and Gasol), and one of sports’ best rivalries returned to prominence. It was a little odd that Garnett and Allen (capable of being number 1 or 2 options on nearly any other team), would want to join forces in such a way that would create ungodly expectations and diminish their individual glory, but it was a fun story, and they’re fun to watch.

And then came “The Decision.” We all know how that went. After Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade created the gluttonous triple strawberry chocolate sundae/cheesecake flambe (they are the heat!) of pure, abominable excess that is the Miami Heat, it was soon clear that Garnett and Allen’s “decision” was only the beginning. Elite players now seem to know that in an age when trios of megastars seem to have the most success and draw the most attention, it pays (in championships and overall swag) to try and latch onto one of those situations.

You might have guessed it, but it was Carmelo Anthony’s anticlimactic trade to New York that got me writing on this subject. And this morning I received another point in my argument’s favor, as Deron Williams was traded to the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, who will be poised to spend big on the next round of superstar free agents they can get their hands on. Before the new CBA is reached, we can safely say that players rule the league. This will still be the case, even if major changes are made in the owners’ favor. It’s the nature of a sport that features only 10 players on the floor at a time, and the nature of a league that knows who it’s daddies are: the superstars that put butts in the seats, sell jerseys and drum up media interest, if you were confused.

Now the NBA has candy-coated clusters of superstars in Boston, LA, Miami, and New York. My guess is that Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could find their respective ways onto either the Knicks or Nets by the time 2012 free-agency has run its course. It seems to be the new cool thing to do for players to team up on “superteams” in major markets, a far cry from they hyper-competitive 80s, when the thought of Magic and Bird, or Jordan and Barkley teaming up would be ludicrous. Maybe its a sign of changing times.

What we might end up seeing is the formation of two competing factions: 1. the players (especially the rich ones, who will want to protect their rights to make max salaries and demand trades whenever they want out), along with the owners of teams from major markets, vs. 2. all the league’s OTHER owners, who represent media markets outside of this elite fraternity of New York, LA, Boston, and Chicago.

There’s always a debate in sports over what generates more fan interest, a league with great parity that gives every fan some hope that their team might contend (the NFL has had immense success with this model), or a league with a top-heavy talent distribution that boasts compelling television events whenever the top teams meet, and spectacular traveling circuses, such as the Miami heat, which tend to sell out the lowly minor market arenas whenever they visit. Perhaps the NBA is better suited to the lopsided model. After all, it has always been a style-driven league with an enduring popularity sustained by its dynamic individual performers. I live in LA, and let me tell you there’s a reason why the NBA works here and the NFL doesn’t. People like to get dressed up and go to basketball games. It’s a glitzy event that happens indoors, often with celebrities lounging courtside. It may not be like that in Chicago, but its still a more fashionable outing than a football game, with much more bright lights and spectacle (see pre-game light shows for every team since the Chicago Bulls began the tradition during the Jordan era). The game of basketball is sublime, but for many Lakers fans, its just part of the event, which might end up in the entertainment complex LA Live right next to Staples Center, or Hollywood for that matter, long after the game’s conclusion. I’ve been to a Knicks game before, and I remember much of the same vibes. I’m not trying to mock this mentality, just explain why the league might trend more towards the uneven talent distribution that favors flash over even competition. What’s more likely to sell out a game in Milwaukee? The average Bucks vs. the average Pacers, or the weak Bucks vs. the spectacular Heat? I’ll take the latter.

Of course, the NBA can only have so many Heats, Lakers and Celtics. They want some parity. That’s part of why the league lets over half of its teams make the playoffs every year (only to let the weaklings get demolished in the first round). So we might see some things change to prevent teams like the Toronto Raptors from being denied any compensation for their star Chris Bosh’s departure (as was the case when they failed to trade him before last year’s free agency), or from teams like the small market Jazz feeling compelled to trade franchise cornerstone Deron Williams before his deal is up, in order to avoid Melo-esque shenanigans, or worse, getting nothing at all in return for their star.

In the meantime, enjoy the show!

February 22, 2011

Brilliance of Communism Lost on Hank Steinbrenner

by npiller88

Hank lookin for some stress relief after the Royals got some of his millions

Hank Steinbrenner, the son of George, has gone political. No, he hasn’t joined a tea party ticket or chided the US Government for failing to come to the aid of Mubarak and other dictators. Instead, he’s taking a shot at the MLB’s revenue sharing and luxury tax policies that force major market teams with gargantuan payrolls to fork over some cash to smaller markets. Keep in mind, the Yankees spent about 130 million dollars on luxury tax and revenue sharing combined, for the 2010 season. So even for the cash flush New York Yankees, this isn’t a minor issue.

“We’ve got to do a little something about that, and I know Bud wants to correct it in some way,” Steinbrenner said. “Obviously, we’re very much allies with the Red Sox and the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs, whoever in that area.”

“At some point, if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets, or don’t leave teams in minor markets if they’re truly minor,” Steinbrenner said. “Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer.”

Except, of course when it was the answer in the NFL. And in the NBA.

Steinbrenner seemed to suggest that a fraternity of major market teams in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York are allied on this issue. There’s one problem. If you eliminate all small market teams, who would the Yankees play? People go to games to see competition. Last time I checked, there weren’t 30 media markets in the united states the size of New York, LA or Chicago. Perhaps some of the most watched games are between the Yankees and Red Sox (especially in the playoffs), but how would the Yankees manage to schedule the 81 home games per year that generate the revenue they ultimately share, if the MLB was only a 5 team league (as Hank seems to desire). I somehow doubt that the owners of the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers are likely to endorse this call to abandon all “minor markets.”

The MLB has an interest in sustaining a high level of competition and trying to promote some parity. They want teams like the Kansas City Royals to be good, or at least competitive. Otherwise, most games during the season would be meaningless (many already are, because teams like the Royals always suck). This is not to say that their answer (luxury tax and revenue sharing) is somehow radical or “communist.” In fact, it’s the least radical mechanism meant to promote parity of any of major sports leagues. Look at the NFL: There’s a strict salary cap and lots of potential to rebuild bad teams through a draft structure that favors weaker teams. While there is a similar draft structure in baseball, the task of player development is such an inexact science that a parity-based draft often doesn’t do much to actually encourage parity. Couple that with the fact that the richest teams in the MLB tend to build their teams through free-agency rather than the farm system, and it becomes clear that the draft, and most other mechanisms of promoting parity are essentially meaningless. The small market teams that succeed do so by making shrewd trades and actually DEVELOPING players (something the Yankees are unfamiliar with) In the NBA, there’s also a strict salary cap, and trades can only be signed off on by the league if the salaries of the players being exchanged match up. Even though there is a trend of elite players in the NBA coming together through free agency, giving rise to a top-heavy talent structure, with a few major powerhouses in contention for a championship (like Boston, Miami, LA and now with the Carmelo signing, New York), teams can still get lucky and draft a superstar that could change the face of their team (see the Orlando Magic with Dwight Howard).

The reason guys like Hank are upset is that the policy is so ineffectual and lenient that it only affects literally the top two or three teams in terms of revenue (because there is such a high revenue ceiling before a team is considered rich enough to share). So in this sense, Hank is right. But his conclusion is wrong. What the MLB needs is more parity, not contraction and rule by the elite teams. The answer is to extend the influence of such revenue sharing measures to actually have some impact on parity, if you are going to do anything at all. Under such a scenario, maybe washed-up shortstops like Derek Jeter wouldn’t be making 17 million a year (or old closers like Mariano Rivera, for that matter–ok, he’s only making 15, my bad). Perhaps the players union wouldn’t be too happy about that. But the main reason why those guys got deals like that is they are icons that play for the Yankees, literally the ONLY team that would even come close to forking over that kind of money for either of those guys. So it seems that Hank sort of dug his own grave here.

If Bud Selig really wants to “correct” this in some way (as Hank would prefer), he either has to do away with the parity measures completely, or dramatically change the way business is done in baseball. Maybe he should take a page out of the NFL’s playbook, Das Kapital, and start enforcing a strict salary cap, even if it’s a pretty high one that would still allow for ridiculous player salaries like A-Rod’s or Pujols’ next deal. Whatever he does, he needs to move away from this logic that having small market teams is somehow bad for the league. In order for a small market to attract a fan base, it needs to start winning. When competing with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, they better get those farm systems to crank out new superstars at an ungodly clip, or else they will be forever in the division cellar (like the Tampa Bay Rays were, before they followed the Oakland A’s lead and produced players through the farm system).

Maybe baseball is fine how it is, and we should just get rid of revenue sharing, since it’s often not even used by cash-strapped owners to actually improve the product on the field. But, Hank, even though we know Communism didn’t work in Russia, didn’t it work pretty well in the NFL?

February 20, 2011

Blake Griffin Wins Sham Dunk Contest

by npiller88

Ok, so new NBA golden boy Blake Griffin (in all his cro-magnon glory) won the Dunk contest at the All-Star Saturday festivities, making the dreams of David Stern come true (as if the outcome hadn’t already been predetermined) The only problem is, he really shouldn’t have won. In a year of unparalleled gimmickery (see gospel choirs, leaping over Kia Optimas, and dunking three basketballs at once), some of the best dunks were overshadowed.

I didn’t check the Vegas odds on the contest, but I’m guessing that a bet on Blake Griffin wouldn’t have netted a huge payday. We all knew he would win. But this is the NBA’s party, and it can decide who the honored guests are. Maybe it’s just not a big deal.

Well, it was a pretty big deal to former WNBA star (and former teammate of Cheryl Miller at USC, not to mention the number 2 pick in the WNBA draft in 1997 at age 34) Pam McGee, the mother of Griffin’s challenger Javale McGee. She has a nice video up on the Washington Post website where she says she thought her son should have won (big surprise there). She was courteous, of course, but did she have a point?

McGee’s dunks were some of the most interesting of the night, particularly the two basket dunk with two balls in hand, after catching one on an alley-oop pass from teammate John Wall. One of his dunks in the final round against Griffin dazzled, but seemed to generate little buzz. It’s hard to tell without a video, but here’s a picture.

In the kind of fashion only a big man (McGee is a 7-footer) could carry off, he cradled the ball and ducked his head under the hoop, only to twist his arm back around and slam the ball down at an awkward angle, displaying heroic finger strength. The dunk was a nice new spin on the old reverse classic, and was judged well. But why wasn’t it good enough to win? Because Blake Griffin jumped over a car. I’m not quite sure how jumping over a car (Griffin essentially jumps over an invisible car every time he dunks) makes for a more impressive dunk, but I think we know what the real story is here.

David Stern: “We need to make sure Blake wins the dunk contest.”

Lackey: “Sure Boss. But how?”

David Stern: “Roll a Kia in there. People love it when athletes Jump over cars.”

Lackey: “Right away Sir.”

David Stern: “Oh, and let fan voting determine the winner.”

A deft move by Mr. Stern, given that Griffin is hugely famous, plays in the second-biggest media market in the NBA, and the All-Star game was IN LA.

Poor Pam McGee. She just wanted her son to win.

February 18, 2011

Friday Photo: Gotta Love Soccer Fans

by npiller88

The Italian League seems to let anything go. I hope the fan shining a laser pointer in the eye of this footballer got a stern talking to from his mother upon returning to her basement.

February 15, 2011

17 Year Old Football Recruit Pulls a Lebron, Few Care

by npiller88

beast

It’s official. Jadeveon Clowney will be clowning around in Columbia. The 17  year-old Clowney, a defensive line recruit and all-around-athletic freak announced his “decision” to take his talents to the University of South Carolina, live on ESPN yesterday.

Never mind that he left Clemson in the lurch, entertaining the idea of going there after they attracted a pair of blue chip linebacker recruits. He even admitted to having made up his mind a week ago, only to insist on announcing his decision publicly during this media event (and numerous figures close to Clowney predicted the South Carolina announcement ahead of time). So, I ask, what is the purpose of making this announcement publicly, and giving Clemson false hopes to land the nation’s top high school recruit? It seems that Clowney is simply rehearsing for his long career as a deeply entitled pro athlete, but starting at age 17 (Ok, so he was actually 18, but BARELY–he made the announcement on Valentines Day, which happens to be his birthday) is a little early. Even Lebron waited until free agency (and the ripe age of 25) to string the Cavaliers along on national television. The key difference here is that as good as Clowney is (and he is jaw-droppingly stunning–just look him up on Youtube), Lebron was an even more magnetic, prodigious figure at Clowney’s age. And you didn’t see Lebron pulling stunts like this. It’s nothing new for recruits to build suspense for their college announcements, but usually the traditional ceremony where they pick a baseball cap featuring their new school’s logo out of an assortment of choices comes on National Signing Day, which is long gone. Clowney deliberately scheduled this announcement, as the final remaining top football recruit yet to announce his decision, with the intention of generating buzz.

Perhaps this is just how things are done these days. Players see a marketing opportunity and seize it. Even before they are legally allowed to smoke cigarettes.

Maybe it’s the influence of the Youtube age. A quick glance at Clowney’s highlights from high school is all you need to be converted to the Jadeveon nation. There’s a moment in one of the clips where he rushes the quarterback, but its a running play, and the tailback heads upfield about ten yards past the line of scrimmage. Tacklers on Clowney’s team keep missing, and it looks like the runner has a shot at taking it all the way. But then, about ten yards later, in comes Clowney to chase him down, exhibiting all-world speed in the body of a beefier, young Lebron James. The word “beast” doesn’t do this kid justice. See for yourself:

But the problem is, his star rose so quickly after the promotional engine of Youtube among others sent it on its way, giving him the leeway to hold these media events, with no purpose other than to pump up his relevance. Of course, this morning, most of America will not know who he is, or what he does. He’s just another 17 (whoops, 18) year old. Now, lets just hope his mother (who has held his hand through this process) is wiser than Cam Newton’s father.