30 April 2007

Lopez's Stick and Low-Fat Carrot Approach

Mariners infielder Jose Lopez is a lucky guy - he just signed a four year, $6.07 million deal with the team, which could net him $13.7 million over five seasons with incentives. Some of these incentives are run-of-the-mill. He'll be rewarded if he makes the All-Star team, and he'll get even more if he's elected to start. There's also money to be earned should he reach 650 plate appearances in a given season. But Jose is a special guy, and has some special incentives involved.

Simply said, the 23-year-old is pudgy. And to help Jose keep the weight off, the Mariners have added some unique aspects to his contract.

Beyond the usual award bonuses, Lopez could earn another $125,000 annually by passing four, in-season tests: body-fat percentage, a 60-yard sprint, a 20-yard shuttle run and a vertical jump.

Each time Jose passes one of those tests, he'll net $25,000. If he is able to pass all four of these tests in a given year, he'll get another $25,000. In what is tantamount to a Major League Gym Class, Jose could be rewarded an extra $625,000 over the course of his contract just for staying in shape.

Isn't staying in good playing condition part of his job? Wouldn't Jose have some sense of pride that would cause him to stay in shape? Or the prospect of losing his job over eating a few too many chicken wings?

Maybe this isn't such a bad idea after all? Could our country solve its obesity problem by offering incentives to keep weight down and lead healthy lives? Maybe a tax break of some sort? It may not ever be a possibility, but if it works for Jose, it could work for America.

29 April 2007

Random Thoughts of over 12 hours of NFL Draft watching …

Yes, I spent the vast majority of this weekend watching the NFL Draft. The opportunity to drink beer and watch football before noon at this time of the year was too good to pass up. Some people consider this event vastly overrated, but yet this event gets bigger and bigger every year. The main reason for this is that football becomes more important each year while other sports become more niche. Anyway, here is what I was thinking during my comatose state of my couch …

* They need to find a replacement for Roger Goodell as “pick reader”: Maybe the new commissioner is a good one, but public speaking is not one of his strong suits. How about they get Deion Sanders or Chris Berman to read the picks? Hey, the NFL is an entertainment property, and thus you need to think of these things.

* The player who has taken the biggest fall over the last four months is not Troy Smith, it’s Chris Leak: Not only was the national championship quarterback not drafted, he signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent, where he gets to compete with blogsphere favorite Kyle Orton for a roster spot. I don’t know which is worse, this or hearing your home crowd cheer everytime you were taken out of the game for a quarterback who can’t throw (Tim Tebow). Poor kid.

* Almost every single team this year took almost all of its time allowed: This created the longest first round in NFL Draft history at over six hours. I have no idea why this was the case, but the NFL should try to speed things up in the future. For example, the league didn’t announce the Chicago Bears selection of Greg Olsen until almost ten minutes after ESPN showed the tight end in Miami with a Bears hat on. Something need to be done about this.

* The Brady Quinn hype was a creation of the media: The Notre Dame quarterback, who was expected to go in the first ten picks, shockingly fell down the board before Cleveland traded up to get him the in the second half of first round. While all of the television pundits were shocked that this happened, maybe they should not have been. Quinn was average at best this year in big games against Michigan, USC, and LSU and his raw skills were nothing compares to JaMarcus Russell’s.

* The Cam Cameron era in Miami is going to end badly: Ok, maybe the Dolphins didn’t want Brady Quinn with pick No. 9, but Ted Ginn? The most telling sign of this pick was when the cameras went to the Dolphins draft party and all the Dolphins’ head coach could talk about is how great a return guy Ginn was going to be. Hello, as the ninth pick in the draft, you better be much more that a return guy.

* Six teams are going to end up kicking themselves for passing on Adrian Peterson: Let’s face it, if Peterson does not break his collarbone, he’s a top-three selection. He has a legit chance to be a top-5 NFL running back. Now, if the Vikings could only get a quarterback.

25 April 2007

An Interview with Jake Wood

A few days ago, we put up a short post about former University of Wisconsin football player, Jake Wood, and his blog, which details his experiences as an enlisted Marine in Fallujah, Iraq. After contacting Wood about setting up an interview, he was kind enough to respond to a few questions we sent via email. In his candid testimony, entirely reminiscent of his writing style, Wood discussed the motivation behind his decision to join the Marines, coping with the loss of friends in combat and how Iraq might serve as a safer environment during war time than our old stomping grounds, Madison, Wisconsin. Enjoy readers and thanks again, Jake.

(1) I think the question most people would like you to entertain is what propelled you to join the military? And perhaps, more specifically, the Marine Corps rather than the Army, Navy, or Air Force?

Well, I got done playing college football and my dream of continuing on to the NFL didn't materialize (obviously). The military was something that I had always grown up thinking about doing. Ever since I was a kid I can remember wanting to do what I am doing today. As graduation started to draw closer and I was attending career fairs, I realized that I wasn't interested in wearing a suit and tie in the corporate world. I also realized that 40 years from now I would regret not having done it when my country needed me the most. We are at war, and the people fighting it need leaders, it was a role that I saw myself as capable of filling. That being said, once I decided I wanted to join, the decision of which branch was easy. I wanted to be the best, so I joined the Marines. It was the same logic behind my choice to go to Wisconsin, don't do anything half-assed.

(2) As a college graduate, you had the option to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) and become an officer in the Marines. Yet, you decided against that path. Why did you decide to enter the Corps as a enlistee, or as you put it a, "grunt?"

I looked into going to OCS, but the more I talked to people the more I was told that this war was being fought on the enlisted level. Corporals and Sergeants lead patrols over here, not Lieutenants and Captains. I wanted to lead, but I wanted to make sure that I was in a position to lead men where its needed most, in combat. I've been blessed/burdened with that responsibility.

(3)Did your experience as a college athlete prepare you physically, mentally and psychologically for the rigors of boot camp and your tour in Iraq? And what was the overall reaction of your buddies on the team/ coaching staff when you revealed that you were going to join the Marines?

I definitely had an advantage going into bootcamp having played for Wisconsin. In all honesty, playing for [former UW Offensive Line coach Jim] Hueber and [former UW Defensive Line coach John] Palermo was maybe scarier than getting thrashed by my drill instructors at bootcamp. I think the biggest thing that it prepared me for was the verbal abuse and constant mental assault. In bootcamp, nothing is ever good enough and you are always told about it. Hell, I had been in bootcamp for four years already at Wisconsin.

When I first mentioned that I was thinking about joining, to some teammates I'm not sure that they believed me. I don't think that it was until I had actually signed the contract that they took me seriously. I couldn't really say if they were surprised or not because they all knew that I was pretty patriotic, especially with all the anti-war stuff that went on on campus. Right before I left for boot I went in to say my good byes to Hueber and [former UW Head Coach Barry] Alvarez. That was the first they heard that I was going. I think they were pretty shocked, I think they always kind of thought of me as the 'smart kid', not the 'gi joe'.

(4) What was it like to go from being a recently college grad to being deployed to an extremely hostile, violent environment? How did you prepare yourself in making such a drastic change?

Is there a more hostile environment than Madison, WI during an American war??? I think I might feel safer over here. In all honesty, there is nothing to prepare you. You want to try and prepare yourself, but nothing in the world is going to prep you for combat. You just have to hope that when the bullets start flying back at you that you dont' freeze.

(5) One of your more poignant posts was on March 12, 2007 when you discussed losing your buddy, Lance Cpl. Nathan Windsor, in a firefight. You said of Windsor, "He was 19. He was Blake Howey's best friend. We called them 'the twins'. They have been reunited." I think it's extremely hard for people in our age-range to fathom losing friends who are 19, 20, 21 years old. How do you gear yourself up to go out on your next mission after these types of events? And how do you and your platoon mates cope?

It's hard to lose a friend at any point in your life, but two factors play into it over here. The first is that you realize that this is your job. We're Marines, on top of that we're grunts. Our job is war and killing. That starts to desensitize you to a certain extent. Everyone came over here thinking that they were invincible, but in the back of their mind they didn't know if the guy to their left and right was too. The second factor that plays in is that the death here isn't natural. It's violent and unnecessary. You aren't just losing a friend, you are seeing him die, you are trying to save his life but you fail. All the training in the world can't desensitize you enough to handle that well.

But, when it happens, you realize that the only way to honor the fallen is to throw your gear back on. Our friends have died, but they will have died in vain if we don't go back out there and try to win this thing. We fight on for the glory of our dead.

(6) On your blog, you openly discuss the loss of Marines that have, in one form or another, been a part of your life. Additionally, at times, it seems as if the internal conversations/debates that you have with yourself there (why do Iraqis continue to contribute to such bloodshed, for instance) come alive on the page. What role does writing play in helping you confront these things?

I first started the blog just to keep up with my family and some close friends. I sent out an email to about 30 people letting them know that I was going to do it. I didn't know what I was going to write about because I didnt know what I would see over here. Even then I didn't know what I would censor. But the writing is an escape for me. I don't like talking about what is happening over here. I don't like calling family and friends up and telling them or discussing it, but I still need to get it out. This is my medium, and it helps that the audience is largely anonymous.

Also, the more this blog has grown, the more I realize that this is a way to honor my friends that are gone. They deserve to be remembered. AMericans needs to know on a personal level what these guys have done for them.

(8) What do you plan on doing when you come home to the States? And do you see this (being a Marine) as a career?

The first thing I'm gonna do when I get off the bus is hug my mom and sisters, shake my Dad's hand, take an ice cold Miller Lite from his other hand, twist the top off and take a good long pull. I also plan on attending the Badger/UNLV game, and then a few up in Madison. After that I could care less.

No, I will not be making this a career. I'm very glad that I joined, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I will be out after my 4 years.

(9) What was your most memorable moment/moments as a college student and college athlete?

As an athlete I have a couple-

When we beat Ohio State at home at night, breaking their winning streak with Lee's [Evans] touchdown from Schabes [former Badger QB Matt Schabert].

Beating Purdue my senior year on Sparky's [former Badger CB Scott Starks] fumble return and breaking into the Top 5.

The first time I got in a game...I jumped offsides about 3 plays later and I thought Coach Hueber was going to eat me.

24 April 2007

That's Judge Billie Jean King To You, Mister

Sagging Law & Order, rejoice! NBC, exclaim! The ratings woes of Law & Order are now over!

Tennis great Billie Jean King will appear this coming Friday on the latest episode of the long-running show.

A huge fan of the show, King received the role from the Women's Sports Foundation as a gift for her 60th birthday three years ago. She finally was able to tape the show in March.
Having King on the show is great. There have been lots of other celebrities on the show in the past, and why not one more. But here are the real questions to be asked. What is the Women's Sports Foundation doing giving out roles on L&O? Secondly, how in the world is King so busy that it took her three years to get around to taping? If I somehow was given a guest spot on the show, or any show for that matter, I'd make it happen. And soon for that matter!

For those that want to watch, and have nothing else to do on a Friday night at 10pm, here's the synopsis:
A Russian businessman dies after being poisoned, so the FBI thinks the case is an act of terrorism, but the detectives uncover a mystery involving the man's business that could send the investigation in a different direction.
Wow, another original L&O plot!

23 April 2007

Free Interest Loans To See the Braves? Think Twice

The Atlanta Braves are trying out something new I'd never seen before. They are offering ticket packages with 90-day, interest free financing. Want a package valued at over $200? The Braves have a deal for you! This financing can be used for as few as four games!

"We've heard from lots of fans who say 'We want this ticket package and we don't have that amount of cash on hand as we speak,"' Braves senior vice president for sales and marketing Derek Schiller said.

This is a great deal for the team, and a terrible one for the fans. If you don't have the money to attend the games, DON'T GO! Or buy cheaper tickets. Or attend fewer games. Or watch on TV. The fan only stands to lose. If you don't have the money now, what makes you think you'll be able to in the span of three short months? What about all the expensive ballpark food? Can you get a loan for that to? And what happens after the 90 days are up?
Dennis Murphy, GE Money vice president of sporting goods industry, said the finance charge on balances unpaid after 90 days is between 20 percent and 25 percent and based on the prime rate.

That's right. The team makes off like bandits.

All this for a product that last year was neither appealing nor in demand. On average Turner Field was only 65% full last year, and finished in third place. If people weren't seeing the team last year, does the team really think this loan will help things?

Sadly, it probably will. People are always tricked by the prospect of free money, even if the pratfalls are devastatingly close behind. In this case, the short span of three months. Credit is one of this country's biggest problems, and the inevitable success of this program will just be another example of it.

The 90-day free interest program is a great idea on paper, and perhaps a great deal for the team in practice. They'll find some fools to do it. I just hope these fans get to see some wins.

But hey, maybe the Braves will finally re-sign some of their free agents now?

22 April 2007

The NBA Playoffs are here: Does anyone care?

As you all know, the NBA playoffs started this weekend, and there were some decent storylines: The Mavericks losing to the Warriors, Kobe Bryant running out of gas in the fourth quarter, and the Bulls holding off the Heat.

But the biggest storyline should really not be any of these things, as it should be how far the NBA has fallen in the American sporting spectrum. If you think that the NBA is even as close to as popular as the time when Michael Jordan was playing in the mid-1990s, you are kidding yourself.

Let’s take a look at some facts:

-Regular-season network ratings have cut in half since 1998
-One regular-season game this season on ABC got a 1.0 national HH rating, less than a quarter of the average regular-season rating in 1998
-The ratings for this year’s All-Star weekend (especially the game on Sunday) were about as big of a disappointment to Turner as the “South Central” atmosphere was to visitors of the MGM Grand
-Playoff ratings across the board have also faced similar declines

Unless the finals feature the Lakers, or possibly the Cavaliers or the Heat, the ratings for this year’s finals shape up to be the lowest in years. Any marketing or television executive having anything to do with NBA has to be disheartened with these trends.

While pretty much every sport with the exceptions of pro and college football have also faced declines in a world of increasing entertainment options, what these declines also prove is that the sport is becoming culturally marginalized. As the sport has further fused itself with hip-hop culture over the past 10-15 years, liking hip-hop music and the NBA have become one and the same. While the league isn’t going anyway any time soon, it’s becoming more difficult to consider it mainstream culture.

Since basketball, more so than any other major sport, is so synonymous with big name teams and stars, the NBA only succeeds when power teams and players are in the spotlight, like the Bulls of the 1990s or the Lakers of the early 2000s. Frankly, the only way for the NBA to ensure itself of big name teams being in the finals would be for it to abandon the salary cap so that someone like Kobe Bryant wouldn’t be stuck with no star power around him. However, I wouldn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

For those of you who are excited about this year’s playoffs, enjoy. However, just realize you are not in the majority.

19 April 2007

Lawrence Phillips: Delay of Conviction

Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips was back in the news today. Trying to avoid what would be potentially a 20-year prison term in the can for assault by contesting a guilty plea he made in another case, Phillips had his sentencing postponed again Thursday. This was the sixth time he'd had the sentencing delayed. What was the conviction for, you ask?

Oh yes, he was convicted of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon. That deadly weapon was a car: in August 2005 he drove onto a field near Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, striking two boys, ages 14 and 15, and a 19-year-old man, who suffered cuts and bruises. His car narrowly missed four other people. And this was all because he was upset over losing a pickup football game with the youths.

To make things worse Phillips is trying to withdraw his 2000 guilty plea for hitting his girlfriend at the time. He claims he was coerced into pleading guilty. Looks like he got more of the bad cop in the interrogation room...

The reason for this? California's Three Strikes Law. In this game, strike three really means you're out - you get life in jail. The guilty plea from 2000 would be his first strike (the previous dragging his girlfriend down a flight of stairs doesn't count as a strike). His "taking his anger out on a bunch of kids who beat him at a pickup game in a sport he used to play professionally" crime (also defined above as assault with a deadly weapon) would make his second strike, and therefore double the maximum sentence to 20 years.

If all goes bad, Phillips could soon be facing his third strike. On top of all of these, he's also awaiting trial on charges he struck his live-in girlfriend in San Diego and strangled her into unconsciousness in 2005. I just hope it wasn't the same girlfriend as the 2000 incident.

This is just another example of a promising athlete squandering a career (and life) by foolish actions. It's one thing not to make it as an athlete. It's a hard thing to do, and few really make it. But it's another thing not to make it as a person. That's inexcusable.

Phillips is using a public defender for all of these cases...and let's just say he'll be getting his money's worth.

18 April 2007

A Badger in Mesopotamia

What do 99% of college athletes do after they hang up their cleats, jerseys, or uniforms at the end of their college careers? I've often wondered about this, even before the NCAA begain to air its "There are 380,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports" commercials during March Madness. I'm willing to bet, however, that few decide to join our nation's military. Something former University of Wisconsin-Madison football player, Jake Wood, did when he joined the Marine Corps.

Wood is currently serving in Iraq and has been detailing his time at Camp Falujah with his blog , "Jake's Life." The blog, which we've spent the last few days poring over, is earnest, witty, intelligent and real. We are in the process of trying to snag an interview with Jake while he's in country, so please keep your eyes peeled. And on behalf of all of us at Lion in Oil, we thank Jake and his buddies for their service.

Baron Davis Ignites the Fire Under Old White Men's Bellies

I came across this image tonight while making my daily pilgrimmage to the Leader's Web site... And boy, what a treat. At first glance, I thought Baron Davis was the only one in great need of a bottle of Maalox. Then, I notice the older, white gentleman in the right corner and knew that I would never eat a single thing at Oracle Arena. Ever.

17 April 2007

Sheffield Does It For Grandpa

Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield has had a long and productive career. Logically, the next step for Gary was to write an autobiography. Written with David Ritz, Inside Power is about Gary's dream of making The Show, and his experiences once he got there. Sitting on his grandpa's lap, Gary and cousin Dwight Gooden heard all about how hard it would be to make it. And it wasn't just playing well. Grandpa said it would take more than just playing well to get there.

Grandpa was right. It took more for Gary and Dwight. Drugs, booze, attitudes, greed, selfishness, and some "cream" doled out by Barry Bonds.

Gary tells us about the book in his own words:

What I want to do in this book is show you what it’s been like taking this strange, wonderful, sometimes immensely frustrating life journey. “Malcontent” . . . “greedy” . . . “selfish” I’ve had plenty of adjectives lobbed my way, and believe me, they’ve stung. There are a lot of stories to tell from a life lived on and off the field: some sweet, others horrific. Everything from soaking up Little League glory to nearly being shot to death, from learning the startling truth of how I came by my last name to playing with and for characters like A-Rod, Jeter, Lasorda, Leyland, and Torre. And, yeah, I’ll finally set the record straight about a guy named Steinbrenner and a guy named Bonds.

But Gary is a good guy. He did it for Grandpa. As Gary's career winds down, just remember that. The temper tantrums, the trade demands, and the constant idea that he's underpaid.

Gary says, "It’s a story Grandpa would want me to tell. It’s a story I need to tell."

LIO Makes the Blog Show

Much thanks to Jamie Mottram and Dan Steinberg for including us in their last edition of the Blog Show. If you haven't seen it already, check it out here:

15 April 2007

Taking the "Madden Curse" into their own hands

Some San Diego Chargers fans have started a campaign to keep LT away from the Madden 08 cover. If this is a cause you want to take part in, you should check out www.saveltfrommadden.com. They also have a MySpace page.

I say we just give PacMan Jones the 08 cover and no one gets hurt. It would also pave the way for Madden to become more like Grand Theft Auto where as part of "Superstar" mode you could assemble your "posse" and get as many women as possible without getting them pregnant. Let's face it - they've done everything else.

For those of you who were considering Michigan as a pre-season top-5 team ...

... Take a look at this from today's Spring Game!

We don't know which is more shocking, the fact that this photo was taken or the fact that its on the official Michigan athletic department website.

We haven't heard whether Verne pissed in the corner of the stadium like he did on The Surreal Life. We will let you know when that information becomes available.

Also a thanks to MGoBlog for making us aware of this.

Congrats Chicago!

After some very spirited debate on this site, the USOC has chosen Chicago to be its candidate city for the 2016 Summer Games. Now the competition gets tougher as The Windy City has to enter the international phase of the competition. But don't worry Midwesterners. As you go up against Tokyo, Madrid, and Dubai, we have the equalizer for you: Joan Cusack! We feel that she should appear in all of Chicago's bid materials with one caveat: She needs to be as wasted as she is in these US Cellular commericals (one of which is below for your viewing).

We would love to hear what you think her BAC was during filming. Our guess is 0.14. If you pick correctly, and we feel generous, maybe we will send you a Giordano's Pizza and a six-pack of Goose Island Honker's Ale.

12 April 2007

2016: The Case For Chicago

The 2016 Olympics - it's right around the corner. On Saturday the US Olympic Committee will decide whether their official entry for the 2016 Olympics will be Los Angeles or Chicago. With The Animal hailing from Chicago, and The Sheriff from Los Angeles, LIO thought it would be a great opportunity for a debate. Listen up USOC: One of us has the answer for you!


Let’s face it, with the world’s perception of America right now only slightly higher than Al Sharpton’s view of Don Imus, the United States has an uphill battle ahead in getting the 2016 Summer Games. Thus, to have any type of shot of winning against a field that will include Tokyo, Rome, and Madrid, the USOC is going to have to put together a unique bid to sway voters from some of the world’s most powerhouse cities.

That bid is Chicago.

With a world that views America as bigoted, the only way the US can convince the IOC to head back into the land of the Red, White, and Blue would be to head to a place with some Midwestern values. As for the celeb-driven bid from Los Angeles, do you really think the rest of the world wants to give them more exposure?

In Chicago, you have a city that is both big enough to be a world-class destination yet small enough to fully transform itself into a manageable games. The Chicago bid has most of its venues within a few miles of each other and right by the lakefront. The Los Angeles bid has swimmers sleeping at UCLA and competing in Long Beach. Anyone who has taken a look at the 405 knows that on a weekday afternoon that might as well be in different states.

And, speaking of transportation, do you really think the global-warming consensus world would elect a place to hold an Olympics without a significant public transportation system? The USOC might as well let Butte, Montana be its bid, because it would have as good of a chance of winning the general election as the already two-time host.

While Los Angeles is a great city, its bid mostly is some agglomerated some spread out venues slapped together into a nice booklet for the IOC. On the other hand, Chicago has put together a cohesive package that has a chance to realistically bring the games back to the States.

2016: The Case For Los Angeles

The 2016 Olympics - it's right around the corner. On Saturday the US Olympic Committee will decide whether their official entry for the 2016 Olympics will be Los Angeles or Chicago. With The Animal hailing from Chicago, and The Sheriff from Los Angeles, LIO thought it would be a great opportunity for a debate. Listen up USOC: One of us has the answer for you!


Los Angeles has it all, and it's a no brainer to host in 2016. LA's got the experience. 1932, 1984, 2016. The numbers just mesh together so well. We've done it well twice before - and why mess with a good thing? Sure, spread the wealth to someone else, The Animal may whine. But we already did that. See: Atlanta '96 (and see how that went...).

LA has the infrastructure already in place to host a successful Olympics. The facilities in the Los Angeles are vast: the Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, Home Depot Center - to name a few. These venues aren't old and creaky. Sixty percent of the proposed facilities in LA's bid were not in existence at the time of the 1984 Games. This also includes new housing at UCLA and USC to house the athletes. Most importantly, having all of this together means that the games can go on with little impact on the tax-payers. There will be no need for any Olympic taxes, bonds, or anything of the sort. In fact, much of the funding will come from private sources. This leaves the citizens of Los Angeles to benefit from the games, with very little lost.

LA's biggest industry is Hollywood, and with that comes the glitz and glamour that it will lend to the 2016 games. Imagine the court-side view of a Laker game, and then imagine it for two weeks worth of games. Hollywood's presence will bring a cache' to the games that will lead to more attention. The 2016 games will be hip - a destination games like no other before it. Chicago couldn't replicate this. Who would they have, John Cusack and Mike Ditka shuttling between events? I don't think so.

LA has the weather. It's got the ocean. Summer in LA means sunny and warm. In Chicago? Hot, rainy, and humid. Have you been to Chicago in August? I have. You need air conditioning. Humid, humid, humid.

Finally, LA has Arnold on our side. Chicago, do you really want to mess with an Angry Governor Arnold?

11 April 2007

Checking In On Duke Lacrosse's Other Shoe

Earlier today North Carolina Attorney General Roy A. Cooper declared the three former Duke Lacrosse players innocent of all charges stemming from last year's rape accusation.

The attorney general, Roy A. Cooper, said the players — Reade W. Seligmann, David F. Evans, and Collin Finnerty — had been wrongly accused by an “unchecked” and “overreaching” district attorney who had ignored contradictory evidence and instead relied on the stripper’s “faulty and unreliable” accusations.

“We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations,” Mr. Cooper said at a news conference.

“We have no credible evidence that an attack occurred,” he added.

While the three players have now been exonerated by the law, and the accuser's photo is now splashed across the Drudge Report, there's still the former Duke coach, Mike Pressler, and his downfall. The coach never wavered in support of his players, and while his support turned out to be valid, it cost him his job, and more. Pressler states that Cooper's announcement only affirmed what he believed all along.
"It is the same truth today as it was a year ago," Pressler said at a late afternoon news conference at Bryant University, where he now coaches. "The injustice, the lies and the myths have been fully exposed."
Pressler was fired from Duke last spring after leading the program for 16 years and building it into a lacrosse juggernaut. After falling from grace at Duke, he landed at Bryant University, a Division II program in Northern Rhode Island.

In a sign of gratitude, Evans paid tribute to Pressler, and the sacrifice he made on behalf of his players:
"Sixteen years he spent building up a team to fall on a sword so that we could continue as a team at the university he loved," Evans said. "We owe him everything."
But like in most stories, there are two sides to every story. Pressler lost a lot. He lost the career that he had spent years building. Coaching at Bryant must be some sort of Lacrosse purgatory. It's like Jim Harrick coaching in the NBDL. His players lost a lot too. They're now household names for all the wrong reasons. Their lives have been changed - probably for the worse.

Yet despite being portrayed in a sympathetic light in the stories coming out, it can't be forgotten that everyone involved brought this incident on themselves. Even being innocent, the Duke Lacrosse team already had a terrible reputation, and their boorish behavior would have culminated in something like this one day. The three players also robbed their teammates of the rest of their season. Pressler, the loyal coach, stood by his players. But he also presided over this program that was wildly out of control. He could have cleaned ship and brought about discipline. But he chose to ride his success and ignore such behavioral problems.

I'm not dealing with the accuser here because enough will be said about her. But as with the others involved, the fact of the matter is each party could have acted differently, and each party was in some way wronged.

"A lot was taken from us," Pressler said, and he's right. Yet it was everyone involved could have helped prevent this calamity.

Do Not Attempt To Be Joey Gathright

Folks, do not try this at home, in a parking garage, or anywhere else - especially if you've got some sort of athletic career in your future. But I'm guessing you don't, so just enjoy this madness.

Here's Joey Gathright, formerly of the Devil Rays and Royals (now with AAA Omaha), doing something I could never dream of.

10 April 2007

Don Cherry Takes on America

Now that's what I call a broadcast team!
Ron MacLean (Left) and Don Cherry (Right)

America, finally you have a reason to watch Hockey.

It may have come a few years too late, as the sport has been buried on Versus and is basically only popular in Detroit, Minnesota, and Buffalo. But long time Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) color (and do I mean color) analyst Don Cherry has been brought on by NBC to add to its Stanley Cup Playoff coverage.

I only have one question: Why didn’t someone think of this earlier? Cherry is the Canadian Madden or Vitale as in he is one of the few broadcasters that people would tune in just to watch him no matter what teams are playing. In an increasingly PC world where Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s hoops team have to get together and have a town hall meeting, Cherry will say whatever is on his mind no matter what people think. As a staunch conservative (if he was American, he would have been in one of those Chevy commercials), he got a ton of heat in Canada for being for the war in Iraq.

But because he is such a character, not just some ex-jock blowhard, he makes watching the games an event. Because he is so into it, you feel like you are watching something important. You can’t really get that with American hockey broadcasters. His plaid sport coats are also a feast on the eyes (I can’t wait to see them in HD!), and they are such a symbol of his shtick that Molson one year made plaid mini-kegs for the playoffs.

I found Don Cherry when I was living in Michigan and I could get CBC on cable, and ever since my time watching Hockey Night in Canada, I have yet to be able to sit through an entire hockey game on American TV. (Of course, maybe that is also because they don’t run the games commercial free at 3 a.m. for drunkards like me like they do there). While viewers might not get the complete Canadian broadcasting experience with solely Cherry, you are certainly going to get one of the best main courses.

If you are a fan of sports television, you owe yourself at least a look at Cherry this playoff season. I promise you will not regret it.

09 April 2007

Imus' Incendiary Comments

A good friend from college was in town last week and we made plans to get a bite to eat and visit a local watering hole to reminisce and chew the fat. We chose an Irish pub, where we immediately witnessed two 65 year-old men incoherently and belligerently battling over a 70-year-old woman with lipstick desperately trying to cover up the fact that she had no teeth. By chance, the game was turned on to the Women's NCAA Championship Game between Rutgers and Tennessee. While admittedly not the most religious fan of woman's college ball, I've been intrigued by Candace Parker since she won the 2004 McDonald's High School All-America game. That, and there was nothing else on.

Within the first few seconds of watching, my buddy noticed that a number of the women on Rutgers' team were sporting tatoos. Both he and I thought about it and came to the conclusion that in all of our time watching women's basketball(probably close to 118 minutes combined, we had never seen girls rocking tats. And these weren't the type of tats normally associated with the those you find on the anatomy of college girls (think small, think on either foot or right above the behind). These were large and placed prominently in the area of a buildup of muscle. We actually talked about whether or not we were employing a double standard, but just generally agreed that most tattoos that large and grotesque look terrible no matter if the individual is male or female.

And while I estimated that others watching the game might have had similar conversations, I was shocked to see Don Imus take it up in such a derogatory and disgusting way. Imus referred to the Rutger's team as a bunch of "nappy headed ho's." Imus continued, “That’s some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos ..." The program’s executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, agreed: “Some hardcore ho’s,” he said. While the I-Man initially expressed surprise at the growing consensus of outrage, he has since apologized profusely, even taking the time to express his regret on Al Sharpton's radio show. Sharpton continues to call for Imus' head.

And while he may not receive Imus' resignation, NBC has decided to suspend the radio announcer for two weeks because of "racist and abhorrent" behavior. While I think this action is just and necessary, Imus should not be fired. Ironically, I use Jesse Jackson as an example of why Imus should retain his position.

While Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition organized a protest in front of the Chicago offices of NBC in light of Imus' comments, Jackson once again seemed to exhibit temporary amnesia and dementia. In 1984, as he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Jackson referred to Jews as "Hymies" and New York as "Hymietown" in a Washington Post interview. After many took umbrage with his comments, the Nation of Islam's radical leader Louis Farrakhan, an aggressive anti-Semite and old Jackson ally, issued a public warning to Jews, made in Jackson's presence: "If you harm this brother [Jackson], it will be the last one you harm." Jackson continued to express ignorance until he finally relented and made amends at a large Jewish synagogue in New Hampshire. By then, his campaign had withered.

I had hoped Rev. Jackson would remember this anecdote and his subsequent lack of judgment in expressing anti-Semitic remarks that he deemed "kosher" enough to articulate in front of a fellow African-American. And I would hope that he could remmeber how he was granted a second chance...The same that should be done for Imus.

08 April 2007

All Hail The Hair Patch

While waiting for the Lakers/Suns game to being earlier this afternoon, I sat through the end of the Cavs/Pistons match. The ending was pretty lame - Lebron clanked some free-throws, the Pistons won. But my viewing was rewarded - for http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifI witnessed the Drew Gooden hair patch. A hair patch you ask? It's all part of Gooden's attempt to bring back the '80s.

Gooden is on a big 1980s kick, a current fad in his hometown of Oakland. The Cavs forward recently plunked down $300 on eBay to get a vintage Casio calculator watch.

Ok, so I get the watch idea. But a hair patch? For real?
He’s growing a square patch of hair in the back of his otherwise shaved head, which he calls a “ducktail,” another ’80s look. His left eyebrow also has two lines shaved into it, another forgotten trend from the time of the Reagan Administration.

I couldn't find a screen shot from the game today (if anyone has one, please send), but I was able to find a photo from earlier in the season. Take a close look:

All I can say is - good for you, Drew Gooden! You've managed to have a 'hair patch" during the course of an entire season. You shave your whole head, except for that one square. Maybe when Lebron's house is done, he can have you over to his own personal barber shop.

Finally about that calculator watch. The $300 he forked over for it was more than he had budgeted. He'd have paid less, however...
Gooden was a little upset he had to get into a bidding war for the watch. Apparently he’s run into another trend, as fans of NBC’s The Office are in the market because one is sported by favorite nerdy character Dwight Schrute.

“It was me and another guy and we were bidding back and forth and it kept going up and up,” Gooden said. “I was lucky I got it.”

You are lucky. The hair patch without the calculator watch? Well, that's just not '80s enough.

05 April 2007

Vegas Calls NBA's Bluff, And It Should

The biggest obstacle Las Vegas has historically found in its way revolving landing a major professional franchise has been the plethora of sports books in town. The proximity to gambling, and by association its dark underbelly has always been troubling for the leagues. Yet the city has no problem with it, and sees no reason to change.

In a proposal to the NBA on Thursday, the city of Las Vegas made no offer to removing betting on NBA games from their books. Requested by Commissioner David Stern, the proposal emphasizes Nevada's gambling regulatory record and argues the system "should provide sufficient cause for the association to permit a franchise to exist comfortably in Las Vegas without concern of corruption or interference by unsavory individuals."

Many believed the city would offer to ban the betting, as had been done with local college games up until 2001. But maybe the city is right? What if there's no reason to ban such betting?

The stance that betting on a particular sport should be banned before a pro team moves there is really an antiquated one. Gambling has gone on through time immemorial. With the rise of the internet, it's possible to bet on just about anything. From local bookies to the online sites (World Sports Exchange, etc) to the books in Las Vegas, the possibility and the temptation is there. A player could easily bet on or fix a game if they wanted to. Whether or not there is a team in Vegas, and whether or not there's a ban on betting players and their entourages will always have recourse to do so.

Let's say there was a ban on betting on the NBA in Las Vegas, and a team did move there. Who would that really effect? Not the players, but the same fans that go to NBA games. When these gamblers bet, they are contributing to the local economy. The $635.4 Million that is gambled on hoops in Las Vegas would disappear. Gambling is the bread and butter of the city, and everyone would be hard pressed to see it go away. Adding to the fact its these same funds that would likely (at least) in part fund a new arena that would, you guessed it, house a team.

The ban on betting would do nothing to the NBA players. If they wanted to bet, they'd take their business to the same places everyone else would - online sites, offshore betting, and local bookies. It's doubtful that an NBA player would be dumb enough to be seen betting on his own sport in Las Vegas now. The ban would change nothing for the NBA players the league is so concerned about. They'd take their business elsewhere, and the same possibilities of gambling and fixing games would still be lurking in the shadows. History tells us if someone wants to do something, they'll find a way to make it happen.

If the NBA and Las Vegas are really serious about bringing a city to the town, it has bigger issues to sort out than the gambling one. First, the Thomas and Mack Center has to go. Can they fund, and build a new arena? Such gambling revenue discussed earlier might be a solution, although the league, and others might see an issue with an arena funded by gambling. But if the lottery can send every child in Georgia to college for free, then it can also build an arena.

The second issue is attendance. Will the seats be filled night after night? Las Vegas is a growing city, but will a team thrive in a city that depends on tourism for its economy. The city does have a minor league baseball team - the 51s, who are the AAA affiliate for the Dodgers. Their attendance history is not encouraging. In recent years the team has wallowed in the bottom third of the PCL in regards to attendance, averaging fewer than 4,600 fans.

Gambling has been, and always will be a prickly subject for professional sports leagues. But there are far more pressing issues to be sorted out beforehand in determining whether bringing a team to Las Vegas is a viable option.

Throw It Down, James White, Throw It Down

Our friends over at TrueHoop linked to this great video of Spurs rookie James White showing off his hops. The top of the backboard is 13 feet high, and he just about makes it! White hasn't gotten much playing time this season for the Spurs, but perhaps a grassroots movement to get him into next year's dunk contest is in order?

While you're at it, check out another reel of White from last year's college dunk contest. He doesn't win, but he sure steals the show.

Croatian Fans Arrested For Rioting BEFORE The Game!

Once again, European sports fans really lead the way in terms of their fervent support for their squads. Last week it was Greeks rioting during a women's volleyball game, killing a fan. In Croatia, both the fans and the police have taken things to a new level.

40 Dinamo Zagreb fans on Wednesday were arrested for rioting before their team beat arch-rivals Hajduk Split 3-2 to reach the Croatian cup final.

"The police have arrested 40 Bad Blue Boys for destroying cars and motorcycles in Split," local police spokeswoman Marina Kraljevic Gudelj told state news agency Hina.

She said the fans had probably arrived on a night train from Zagreb and almost immediately went on the rampage. Police confiscated 24 baseball bats and a number of flares.

Does this sound a little bit like "Green Street Hooligans" to anyone? These are some hardcore fans - they didn't even bother to watch the game before rioting! And considering the train ride from Zagreb to Split is six hours (I've done it), it's not as if the two cities are right around the corner. Talk about dedicated rioters! While security may be lax there, wouldn't a sight of 40 guys with baseball bats in hand on a train look like a bad idea?

The lesson here is to wait until after the game to riot. You never know, you may have something to celebrate after all! Better to be done in the streets than prison.

03 April 2007

Hot Dogs And Pineapple - Montoya's Winning Combo

Moving from Formula One to NASCAR this season, Juan Pablo Montoya has surely have had many things to get adjusted to. Different cars, different tracks, different opponents. While the jury may still be out on his initial success, Juan Pablo has certainly made up his mind regarding one thing - Martinsville hot dogs. For the uninitiated, a Martinsville hot dog is a pink wiener smothered with chili, onions and slaw. These Martinsville hot dogs are a beloved treat in NASCAR. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. loves 'em. In fact, he downed his first two before 10 a.m. prior to practice.

In a bizarre interview with AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer, Juan Pablo talked about everything hot dogs. Here are some of the highlights.

Q: Did you have a famous Martinsville hot dog?
JPM: ``No.''

Q: So why didn't you try it?
JPM: ``It just doesn't look good. Somebody from Speed gave me one, and it was in a bag and I looked at it and thought `Hell no!' ``

So if Juan Pablo doesn't like the Martinsville hot dogs, how does he prefer his?
``I put cheese on it, put the bun with the cheese in the microwave, then put a little bit of pineapple on it. Then the sauces, then a little bit of crumpled (potato) chips.''

And he thinks the Martinsville hot dogs are gross? Pineapple? On a hot dog? Montoya certainly gets points for creativity (and even perhaps a nod to offsetting the terrible nutritious elements of a hot dog). But his concoction sounds like it would be made by either a four year old with free roam of the kitchen, or a college kid scrapping a bunch of leftovers together. Scratch that - what's a college kid doing with pineapple? Cutting it up would be too much effort.

In the words of Arnold's Pizza Delivery Shop, "what the hell is pineapple anyway?"

02 April 2007

It’s time to be real about Women’s Basketball

If you have any intention of watching ESPN tonight to find quality sports programming, I have two words for you: Good Luck.

That’s because the Worldwide Leader is going all out for the NCAA Women’s Championship game between Tennessee and Rutgers. And when I say all out – I mean all out. ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD, ESPNU, ESPN360, ESPN International (Women’s college hoops in 112 countries – are you shitting me!), ESPNNEWS, ESPN Radio, and ESPN.com are all devoting their Tuesday night to see who is the best Women’s Amateur Basketball team in the land. Let’s just hope ESPN Classic is showing American Gladiators again.

This is all great except for that fact that only two groups of people care about Women’s Basketball:

(1) Senior Citizens in Connecticut

(2) (some) 12-year-old girls

Unless Depends and Metamucil are pouring in more sponsors to the ESPN coffers that I realize, this is just ridiculous. And, for those of you who think I’m living in 1950, I also want to dispel some myths about the Women’s game:

(1) The Women’s NCAA Tournament makes money: Actually, the Women’s NCAA Tournament (despite help from ESPN) does not make money and the vast majority of Women’s Basketball programs do not make money. You see the crowds at some of these games? Let’s just say you can sit pretty close to the action if that is your thing.

(2) Women watch Women’s Basketball: If you have a free moment, ask a girl you know if she watches Women’s Basketball. Unless she played in high school or college (and many of those even don’t), the answer is very likely going to be no. I mean, seriously, do you know one girl who that can name more than one player on a WNBA or Women’s NCAA team unless she knows them personally? I think not.

(3) ESPN broadcasts the thing for purely business reasons: I don’t know why ESPN does what they do for this, but I guess it has to do with the contract it has with the NCAA and/or trying to be politically correct. For a company that has a pretty bad track record when it comes to sexual harassment, this is not a bad idea.

(4) We should put Women’s basketball on a pedestal so that girls can also have the dream of becoming a pro or major college athlete: Don’t mistake me for a sexist or Title IX hater here. I think girls should be encouraged to play sports for a variety of reasons. But playing soccer in high school and having the dream of “going pro” are two completely different concepts. While you may say that then we are denying girls from birth the chance to be in the sports spotlight, but the reality is that 99% of guys are denied that from birth because of their genetics as well. Most people don’t think of that when considering the need that they believe exists to give women “sports dreams.” Putting women’s basketball (and soccer for that matter) on a pedestal than you would think. The last thing we need in society is more people wanting to become pro athletes.

But, despite my ranting, Women’s Hoops is not going away anytime soon. So, in spite of the situation, here are a couple ideas to improve the game:

(1) Make the telecasts less like “Super Tuesday” and more like “The Hills.”: As I discussed earlier, Women’s do not watch Women’s Basketball. But they do watch “The Hills” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Instead of trying to pass Women’s hoops off as sports entertainment, the NCAA should let MTV or VH1 take a team or two and make their season into a reality show. If girls knew about the player’s relationships and the hit guys on the guy’s basketball team they were dating, maybe then they would watch.

(2) Play up the fact that there are “gay” teams and “straight” teams: There have been rumors that there are certain college teams attract certain sexual preferences for years, and the recent news from coaches of LSU (gay) and Penn State (straight) make me seem to believe that this is actually true. Well, if it is, let’s bring it to the forefront! This would bring an angle to the broadcasts that men’s hoops could not.

I might not be David Stern, but I’m sure tonight ratings would be a lot higher if they started doing this like the above. As for me, I would much rather spend this evening making out with the girl rather than watching one play basketball. And I think Pokey Chapman would agree.

01 April 2007

Farmar Does Double Duty

Being a rookie in the NBA means many things. Hazing, carrying bags, and often long stretches on the pine. But for the Lakers' Jordan Farmar, today also signified a rarity in basketball - playing a doubleheader.

Farmar became the first person to play in an NBDL and NBA game in the same day. Playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Farmar had 18 points, six assists, and three steals in a loss to the Anaheim Arsenal. Then, in the nightcap, Farmar cleaned up in garbage time, scoring four points in eight minutes.

The quick trip down to the D League hopefully will pay off for Farmar and the Lakers. He'd fallen further down Phil Jackson's depth chart in recent weeks, getting the dreaded DNP-CD in four of the last six games. With the Lakers being the only team in the Association to own their own D League franchise, sending Farmar down for the afternoon was an easy luxury to take advantage of. The only part stranger than this occurrence is the fact that Farmar is the first player the Lakers have sent down from their squad this season.

To his credit, Farmar handled the say in stride:

"They (the Lakers' brass) just want to see me get out there and be a leader and get some shots up," he said. "I got to the free throw line and got to see some go down (8-for-8).

"I took a couple of shots that felt really good and they went in and out. But the basic idea was just to get me out there playing and get comfortable again so that I can be an integral part of this team come playoff time, if they need me."

Farmar is right - come playoff time, the Lakers could certainly use him. There are so many quick guards in the Western Conference, and the Lakers have always struggled to guard them, particularly on the pick and roll. Having Farmar on the top of his game is a great insurance policy to have. There's only so far Smush Parker and Shammond Williams can take a team.