LIO is hitting the airwaves! This humble writer will be a guest on NPR's The Bryant Park Project tomorrow morning, talking a little Barry Bonds and a little baseball. Find it on your local NPR station, or check back here tomorrow for link to the podcast version of it.
31 July 2007
David Beckham has now been on US soil for almost three weeks and so far the biggest losers are the fans. The winners? No surprise, the Galaxy and MLS.
So far MLS fans have come out in droves to see Beckham, but thus far his bum left ankle has left the fans to miss out. Of the 11 remaining road games for Beckham and his merry Galaxy bunch eight are already sold out, or are nearly so. The other three? They're being played in larger American Football stadiums, but they're no slouches either. 40,000 tickets have already been sold for the Galaxy game in New York, and 20,000 in the other two.
"As much as we are benefiting, there are markets across the country that are benefiting," said Alexi Lalas, the Galaxy's president and general manager. "This is a win-win situation for everybody."Except for fans. Word of Beckham's no-show came too late to affect ticket sales in Dallas.
Consider this: Before Tuesday's Galaxy/FC Dallas match there had been 15 sellouts for far this season, and eight had been in Toronto. With the Galaxy having 20 games remaining, they're likely to top that all on their own. It may be hard to completely quantify the economic impact of David Beckham on MLS, but it's more than clear that each party is making out pretty well.
But what about those fans? They rushed out to buy the jerseys and get tickets to see Beckham. Now, they're left with a DNP - Left Ankle. Some teams have been better at stemming the pain of not seeing Beckham than others.
FC Dallas did the sensible thing, and realized that people weren't there to see their team, but rather the opponent. They reacted by offering special priority to that game's ticket holders for the next Galaxy visit. These fans are lucky, and can buy tickets to future Galaxy visits before they go on sale to the general public.
The fans in Toronto? No so lucky. They won't be offering a similar deal.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Toronto FC said that "ticket buyers should be aware that the standard policy for sports and entertainment events as it pertains to scheduled appearances remains in effect.Yeah, yeah, Toronto, I get your point. And perhaps you can do that when you've got a small stadium and would sell out anyhow. But that's no way to treat your fans, especially in your first year of existence.
"Consistent with all sporting events, we are not in a position to guarantee that any player will appear in a match. Those decisions are determined by the coaching staff with advice from their advisors. As with any other player under contract with either club participating in the game, should Mr. Beckham be unable to play in the game no refunds will be issued for tickets purchased."
30 July 2007
Are you sick and tired of Ticketmaster and their seemingly endless service charges, facility charges, processing charges and convenience charges? Well, you're not alone. So are the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they're doing something about it. They're suing Ticketmaster.
The lawsuit claims that Ticketmaster is attempting to prevent the team and its Flash Seats, a secondary-ticketing service from competing with the ticketing company.
"Ticketmaster is using its market power to exclude competition and inhibit innovation," said Sam Gerace, chief executive officer of Flash Seats. "I can only conclude they're threatened by Flash Seats."Ticketmaster isn't screwing around here. They've already sued the Cavs and Flash Seats earlier in the month, asking the court to rule that they have the exclusive rights to handle all of the team's ticket sales. The real kicker here is that the Cavs and Flash Seats (which are both owned by Dan Gilbert) aren't just using this system for themselves. They're actively trying to sell their technology to other teams as well.
The Cavaliers and Flash Seats contend that Ticketmaster is coercively seeking to enforce its primary-ticketing contract with the Cavaliers to exclude Flash Seats, saying that the contract prohibits the team from doing business with Flash Seats.
After a little investigation, Flash Seats does seem to have something that's a pretty cool tool. Essentially, they've done away with paper tickets. The patented system allows customers to buy tickets online, and use their credit card or driver's license to gain entry to the event. It helps the fans who will inevitably lose their tickets at some point before the event, but more importantly gives the teams more control over the tickets. They can eliminate the outside secondary-ticket marketplace and gain more revenue that way.
The Flash Seats system was used by the Cavs last season, and participation was voluntary. The team said about 17% of season ticket holders used the service during the regular season, and increased to 50% during the playoffs.
Don't worry Ticketmaster, you can always raise your fees should you lose this lawsuit. And you may be fine. But do be worried. Flash Seats is on to something here.
(Photo Credit: Mark Duncan, AP)
New York Knicks center and Chicago native Eddy Curry is considered a good neighbor who likes to ride his ATV around the neighborhood. But the suburban area of Burr Ridge may not claim Curry as a neighbor much longer. Curry, his wife and an employee were robbed at this home by gunpoint over the weekend. Three masked robbers tied up the threesome with duct tape and stole cash and jewelry from the big man's home. And while the idea of a 6'11", 285 pound man being wrapped up in duct tape might be funny, this may be part of a larger crime organization.
Try to remember three weeks back. Yes, it was likely hot where you were. Regardless of the heat index, another NBA star, Antoine Walker was similarly robbed by masked robbers at gunpoint at his Chicago area home on July 10th. And now the police are wondering whether someone is targeting professional athletes.
NBA players and their culture emphasize heavily on excess, and it's surprising that they aren't robbed more often because of it. With the money they're making, perhaps more should be spent on security. The NBAPA will try to spread the word:
In the cases of Curry and Walker, the attackers were masked men who used tape to bind the players and others. The police said that in both cases the intruders got past security measures and hid inside the home.
Local authorities say there may be a connection, but no arrests have been made. In both cases, the police have been able to get an idea of the assailants through video surveillance cameras but have not been able to release a clear composite of any of the intruders.
Dan Wasserman, a spokesman for the NBA Players Association, said the union will contact every NBA player who lives in the Chicago area to let them know about the home invasions and answer any questions they have about security.Luckily for the Walkers and Currys nobody was harmed in the robberies. It must be scary enough to be robbed, and likely worse to know that you were part of a targeted plot. It's not surprising that Curry didn't try to fight back against his aggressors - he knew it would tire him out. But Walker? It surely must have been the only shot he's ever passed up in his life.
28 July 2007
LIO is back on this week's edition of The Blog Show, and we couldn't be happier.
Thanks to everyone once again for including us, and be sure to check it out!
Oh, and remember that post we did about the Cuban female baseball umpire? Well the good folks at 100% Injury Rate have a nice follow-up taking a look at female umps in the US. Read it.
Posted by Fun Sheriff at 10:16 AM
26 July 2007
The baseball season has heated up, and there are plenty of news items going on. Barry Bonds is going to break Hank Aaron's home run record any day, the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place, and the trade deadline is just days away. But there's one story lurking beneath the radar that could prove to rock the sport more than any other.
The man's name is Judge Edward C. Voss, and his decision tomorrow could really shake things up. It all involves an affidavit where some names are blacked out. The Associated Press filed a suit which argued that the public has a right to know whose names of the players implicated in the whole Jason Grimsley affair, and on Thursday Judge Voss indicated that he would issue his ruling on Friday.
In making the case for the judge to unseal the names, Peter S. Kozinets, a lawyer for The Associated Press, said that throughout the government’s five-year investigation of the use of performing-enhancing drugs, users have not been prosecuted.The government responded to the suit like in the same way it does about everything else that goes on in the federal government. They claim the names shouldn't get out because it's an "ongoing investigation." Sound familiar?
The public, he said, has the right to know that the investigation has been conducted fairly, and that professional athletes were not receiving special treatment.
If Judge Voss does rule in favor of the AP, it will surely create a great deal of madness. The years of guessing who did and didn't take steroids could finally be answered in part. Former Major Leaguer David Segui has already admitted that he was on the list, and the LA Times reported last October that players such as Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettite were also implicated as steroid users.
The Grimsley affair seems to have drifted into obscurity over the last year, but tomorrow's decision could thrust it back into the spotlight. This hasn't been a good stretch for any of the major professional sports leagues, and a decision in favor of the AP is perhaps the last thing MLB needs. So let's hear it from Voss, and perhaps our years of playing the guessing game can finally bear some winners.
The Boston Red Sox took out a quarter page ad in today's Variety to congratulate Matt Damon on his getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Defamer points out that pal Ben Affleck is likely to be quite jealous. But Lisanti's missed the real issue here. In Hollywood it doesn't matter how much you actually like someone. Your love instead is indicated by how big your ad is in the trades. So next time Sox, when it's Affleck's turn, make it a whole page.
25 July 2007
Presidential hopeful John Edwards took some time off from the campaign trail on Wednesday and hit the bike trail instead. Campaigning in Iowa, Edwards squeezed into some spandex and did some biking with 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong along the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) route.
Edwards and Armstrong rode at a steady pace, and the candidate chatted with riders about the issues that they were interested in. Armstrong said he invited all of the presidential candidates to ride with him, but Edwards was the only one so far to take him up on his offer.
Three riders from Armstrong’s foundation surrounded Edwards and tried to shield him from the crush. The pack of riders around them hovered at about 50 deep.Edwards said that he'd only ridden a bike "two or three times" in the last 20 years, but managed to make the trek without falling. But was it as easy as he made it look?
As the pack crammed together to let a car pass, Edwards wobbled a little and veered around a rider.
“This is an accident waiting to happen,” he said, and laughed.
"This is actually not hard, this is fun," Edwards said as he climbed a hill on County Road T16 on a black Trek road bike he borrowed for the day. "The biggest problem is my butt hurts. Is that normal?"More than anything Edwards knew who to defer to along the course. Edwards may want to lead the nation, but Lance is the man when it comes to the bike-path.
"I only kept up with Lance when he decided I should keep up with Lance," Edwards said.I don't have the answer to that, but I'm guessing it is. But what's not normal is that Edwards managed not to get helmet hair while riding. But I guess that's also normal when you get a $400 haircut.
Have you always thought back to your younger days as an athlete and asked yourself "what if?" Were you only four stars away from becoming a 5-star recruit? Are you just dying to have been a big time college basketball player? If you've got deep enough pockets, Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski have got the answer to your dreams.
It's not just McDonalds All-Americans who are gracing Coach K Court at Cameron Indoor Stadium any more.
Coach K is making expensive exceptions for the 80 weekend warriors who paid $10,000 each to be part of his annual "K Academy" fantasy camp. They will get to pull on personalized Blue Devil warmups and play for teams coached by J.J. Redick, Jay Williams and about 20 other former Duke stars.Youngsters need not apply - you have to be 35 or older to attend the camp. But I guess you'd have to be older to afford it.
The fantasy camp doesn't fill Coach K's coffers, but instead benefits charitable causes. The camp is estimated to raise roughly $750,000, and goes towards scholarships at Duke and to the downtown Durham community center and gym.
The itinerary features the expected free throw shooting and layups along with lectures and business lessons. It also offers yet another way for the Hall of Fame coach -- who has spoken to Fortune 500 companies, written books on finding success and staged an annual leadership conference -- to promote the "Coach K" brand and broaden his appeal beyond basketball and into the board room.
Coach K doesn't coach any of the teams - he leaves that up to his former players who come back for the camp. And you won't find the snarling, intense Krzyzewski that you're likely to see pacing the sidelines during an ACC battle. No, $10,000 buys you a happy, smiling man instead. It must be a nice break for Krzyzewski and all of the Dukies that come back for the affair. The attendees also get a great memory out of it as well. Just listen to Maury Fisher, a 74-year-old real estate developer, and three-time camper.
"You talk to any of the guys that have ever met him or played with him, he's just the best," Fisher said. "It's the way he makes you feel about yourself. I'm the oldest guy, but he has a way of making you feel like you're special to him. He's been that way. ... Most of the coaches are great guys, but he's still somewhere above them in terms of his makeup and how he handles somebody."
The NHL really seems to be cementing their status as last-place sports league, don't they. Their ratings suck, and they've dropped off of the national radar. And now they can't even get a good scandal going! Baseball has steroids, the NFL has Michael Vick and his merry band of criminals, and the NBA has its point-shaving referee. The NHL? Rowdy bachelor parties? That's it?
That's right. Carolina Hurricanes star Eric Staal and his brother Jordan of the Pittsburgh Penguins were arrested over the weekend for misdemeanor disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice at Eric's bachelor party. The brothers Staal were among 14 arrested, and their offense seemed rather tame.
The sheriff said the group was warned multiple times before finally being ordered to leave the Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas in Lutsen, at which point the men gathered on a nearby highway and "began harassing motorists." That's when authorities arrested the group, around 4 a.m. Saturday.To add insult to injury Jordan Staal, who just finished his rookie season with the Penguins was also slapped with an underage drinking charge. The Fanhouse has a great wrap-up of the shenanigans that went on, including the detail that some of the "gang of 14" fled into the woods to try and escape arrest. I'm wondering if any of them finally found that Russian dude that never came back from the Sopranos...
"I didn't expect it would be any more serious than it is -- they're noise violations," said Rick Curran, the agent for both players.
Either way you look at it, the brothers and their friends will have some interesting tales to speak of during the rehearsal dinner and wedding come August. The NHL '08 cover boy is scheduled to marry fiancé Tanya Vanden Broeke, and everyone should have some time to figure out their glory tales from last weekend's adventures. Take a look at Tanya. I hope she's kept a smile on her face this past week. The NHL's got plenty of problems, but this shouldn't be one of them. If nothing else, it seems to be a "boys will be boys" affair.
24 July 2007
Athletic careers are a fragile existence. Each time a player takes the field they run the risk that it might be the last time. And for future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, his time may have come.
Fighting to return from a back injury, the Diamondbacks pitcher acknowledged that his career may be over.
"I think everybody in this clubhouse, maybe not the players but the coaching staff and front office, would like to know, and I would like to know, whether I'm going to be able to pitch and help this organization," he said. "If not, I think that I need to take care of things and they would need to take care of things."Players are constantly fighting injury, and as their careers wind down it's easy to see the struggle they face against their aging bodies. But what's so interesting here is that Johnson is so open about his thought process and mentality. At age 43, and having made three trips to the DL so far this season, it's clearly been a frustrating process for the Big Unit.
Johnson hasn't pitched since the end of June, and the layoff can really take a toll. He pitched in a simulated game before Tuesday's game, and even that wasn't easy.
He faced 12 batters, giving up two balls that probably would have been hits in a real game and one sequence that probably would have led to a walk.The Diamondbacks are treating Johnson with care and caution, as they should. And like the Astros did with their Craig Biggio situation, they're giving the pitcher the distance and respect that he deserves. After all, he did win four of his five Cy Young Awards with the team, and letd them to their only World Series victory. After a 20-year career, are we witnessing the last days of Johnson's career?
Between innings, Johnson looked tired, toweling his head, stretching to touch his toes and, at one point, pacing between the mound and second base with his hands on his hips.
"I'll cross whatever bridge I have to when the time comes," Johnson said. "Right now, I've thrown some pitches today. We'll see how I feel and go from there."It seems that no matter what the Diamondbacks and Johnson have some tough decisions ahead of them.
23 July 2007
Attention California residents: if you've been running around your local soccer fields wearing kangaroo leather cleats, beware! You're wearing contraband! That's right, the California Supreme Court on Monday banned the sale of soccer cleats and other goods made from kangaroo leather.
You might not realize it, but kangaroos have taken up quite a bit of time in California's political ecosystem so far this year. Legislation to allow "kangaroo-derived" products passed the state Senate earlier this year, and is expected to clear the Assembly. The new prohibition, which is the only one of its kind in the U.S. overturns two previous rulings, which held that "California's kangaroo ban interferes with federal support of Australia's wildlife management plans."
The activists oppose kangaroo products because they say hunters mistakenly shoot endangered species. They also say abundant kangaroo species are killed cruelly -- sometimes shot during night hunting parties, and sometimes clubbed to death as babies.No ideas were given on how to enforce this law.
"We sued because of the horrific way kangaroos are killed," said Lauren Ornelas of Viva International Voice for Animals, which filed the lawsuit. "We sued because of the way Adidas is snubbing their noses at California's law."
Kangaroos were first put into the contraband category in 1971, and it was reinforced in 1974 when three variations of kangaroo were placed on the endangered species list. But kangaroos hopped their way out of the endangered list in 1995, and the marsupials' hides were no longer considered a banned good.
Adidas is the largest industrial user of kangaroo leather, and they've spent almost $500,000 on lobbying efforts since 2003. Their popular soccer cleat, the Predator, is made of kangaroo hides. And wouldn't you believe it, in his efforts to dominate every aspect of California's culture David Beckham wears the said shoes. But fear not, vegetarians and PETA supporters, Beckham has managed to skirt controversy, and remain our golden visitor:
"David wears synthetic Predator boots so this ruling has no relevance to us," Beckham's spokesman Simon Oliveira wrote in a terse e-mail. Oliveira declined further comment.It's great to see that when California's State Supreme Court isn't dealing with frivolous lawsuits, same-sex marriages, and sentencing laws, they can help out our great Australian friends. Kangaroo Jack thanks you!
In the United States the justice system stands by the motto "innocent until proven guilty." Minor League Baseball stands by another saying, and it probably goes by something like "strike the right promotion while the iron is still hot." With that in mind the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League (GBL) announced today that they will be hosting the first ever "Michael Vick Animal Awareness Day" this coming Sunday.
Reminiscent of the infamous Disco Demolition over 25 years ago (without the attendant stampede and chaos), the Armada will destroy all Michael Vick jerseys in protest to the inhumane treatment of animals. Any fan who trades in a Michael Vick t-shirt or jersey at the box office will receive free admission to the game and a donation in their name will be made to Justin Rudd's Community Action Team ( C.A.T.), a 501c3 nonprofit that provides educational outreach and events to help inspire a better understanding of dogs, encourage responsible ownership practices, and offer practical adoption and rescue opportunities.The team, which actually operates under its full name The Long Beach Armada of Los Angeles of California of the United States of North America including Barrow, Alaska is really putting all its paws in for this one. Special events for man and woman's best friend include a ceremonial dog first pitch, dog beauty contests, skateboarding bulldogs, wiener dog races, and dog washes.
Armada fans and their baseball loving canines will have their own special entrance and section. But worry not, this wont become a shitty section. Dogs will be allowed to visit a unique "comfort area" during the game.
And lest you think this is some reactionary stunt by the team looking to cash in, think again. It's not really about Michael Vick. They're doing it for the dogs.
"Armada players, coaches, and staff spend every day working in the professional sports world and many of us are also devoted dog owners. We feel as sports professionals it is necessary to bring awareness to animal abuse, particularly the intolerable injustices associated with dog fighting," commented Armada President and General Manager Steven Bash.So come out on Sunday, burn your Vick jersey, and have a dog-day-afternoon.
22 July 2007
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has had a slightly off-par season, and maybe now the reason is coming to light. Perhaps he's been feeling guilty about not signing his name as much as he should.
Steiner Sports, a memorabillia company is suing Ortiz for $1 million, claiming that he breached his contract by failing to sign the required number of items and not appearing at enough "meet-and-great" events. He was supposed to sign 13,000 items for the company, and maintain exclusivity through the beginning of 2008.
“Ortiz has constantly remained substantially below the amount of memorabilia items required to be signed under the agreement,” according to the lawsuit filed in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court.I couldn't imagine signing my name 13,000 times, let alone making them constantly resemble each other. But I suppose I could imagine getting paid to do it.
Steiner claims that Ortiz skipped several scheduled public appearances, and when he did show up, he didn’t autograph the minimum amount of memorabilia required by the contract.
Aside from the interesting window into the sports memorabillia world, it's surprising to see the rather small amount that Steiner is asking for. It suggests that perhaps Big Papi's value isn't all that high. If you take a look at his section on Steiner Sports' website (yes, they're suing, but they've still got to sell his stuff) you can see that aside from a few of the rarer items like a signed game-used base or uniform, the prices aren't all that expensive. Ortiz had better sign more balls for the company, and hit more home runs as well. That will keep his price up.
I'm guessing that with price Steiner is asking, Ortiz and the company will work their differences out, and he'll be signing the right amount of balls pretty soon.
David Beckham is the talk of the sports world and perhaps the biggest thing to ever happen to the MLS. And while Beckham has hit Southern California, making the Galaxy MLS' version of the Yankees, Moneyball's favorite GM may be coming to the league as well.
Billy Beane is coming to the MLS, hoping to change the way you think about soccer.
Beane is a soccer nut, and the owner of the A's (his boss) just resurrected the San Jose Earthquakes last week. When the team starts off again in 2008 "Beane could use Major League Soccer as a laboratory, testing whatever theories of soccer analysis he might conjure up."
"Billy is going to be deeply involved in soccer for us," said Lew Wolff, managing partner of the A's and now the Earthquakes. "We're actually looking at some of Billy's concepts on how to evaluate players. We're trying to find out how we can apply some of Billy's thinking."It would take a superhero to be able to run two different sports franchises the way Beane hopes so. And the way he's depicted as micromanaging the A's in Moneyball makes one wonder if it's possible to do. But if anyone thinks he can, it would be Beane.
Beane has been so successful being the thrifty guy in an ecosystem full of big-spenders. Despite having an extremely low payroll, they haven't had a losing season since 1998, making the playoffs a number of times (it should be noted that the A's are on pace for a losing campaign this season). And the MLS is a totally different game, with a vastly different economic system than that which Beane is used to being constricted by.
Beane's systems and metrics have allowed him to find the best bargains with great success. But imagine what he could do in the MLS, where every player is a bargain. Considering that only six MLS players have annual salaries above the major league minimum of $380,000, Beane probably looks at this as a level playing field, or more likely one that he can exploit.
Major League Soccer is on a roll. It's got David Beckham and a place on the world radar. With the likes of Billy Beane interested now, it couldn't ask for a better situation. And don't be surprised to see the San Jose Earthquakes in the playoffs come 2009.
21 July 2007
Alex Rodriguez is a talented guy. He's a two-time MVP. He's got the richest contract of all-time. He honors the fans. And he's also an author. Sure, today and the weekend might belong to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, but A-Rod tried to claim his stake on the day as well.
Alex Rodriguez signed copies of his children's book, sang "Do-Re-Mi" with his daughter, posed for paparazzi, and spoke in English and Spanish to a horde of camera crews before heading up to the Bronx for a tilt with the Devil Rays.Hundreds of fans came out to FAO Schwartz to have their copies of A-Rod's "Out of the Ballpark," written his tome without (credited) assistance
"I wrote this book because my daughter loves to read. She must have like 50 books," Rodriguez said. "I wish I read more as a child," Rodriguez said. "As a child, as a youngster, you can never have too many books."Definitely Alex. But while having books is great, so is checking them out from the library.
It should be noted that A-Rod's wife, Cynthia chose not to wear an "F-Bomb" shirt like she did earlier in the season. For this affair it was just a simple dress.
While it's already one of the nation's most prominent football programs, Notre Dame is really trying to become America's team. The school announced Friday that it would take on Washington State on October 31, 2009 in San Antonio. This will mark the first in an annual "home away from home" game for the Irish.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White likened the off-site home game to the concept used in the 1920s by legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.The game marks an effort by the school to increase its national footprint, essentially making an additional bowl game for itself every year. Stops in Florida and other cities are planned for future years. It makes sense for the school to travel nationally, as doing so increases its popularity and helps in recruiting. But the location and opponent of this game will really put Notre Dame's drawing power to the test.
"It's a little bit like the barnstorming approach that Knute Rockne took back in the 1920s," White said. "We believe these events will provide great opportunities for fans to see our team play when they may be otherwise challenged to travel or obtain tickets for games in South Bend."
Will the 65,000-seat Alamo Dome be at capacity for the game? Notre Dame is obviously a draw, but Washington State is hardly a team worth seeing. What makes the top-tier bowl games that Notre Dame is accustomed to playing so special is that they're often against other marquee teams. WSU does not fit that mold.
The location is also curious. Yes, Texas has a humongous population, but there are 4,600 Notre Dame alumni living there. They would hardly fill up a section let alone the stadium. In order for this experiment to be a success they'll have to draw from the "extended family" that Notre Dame thinks it has.
By keeping its non-conference schedule a national affair Notre Dame has already proven that they are loved nation-wide. But in the past they've traveled to road games, not neutral sites. By scheduling this game Notre Dame is putting not only its reputation on the line, but probably its financial success out there as well.
18 July 2007
The age-old adage always goes: if you don't like a particular thing, do something about it. The indignation needed to actually do this is usually utilized only by fringe elements and the like (see: Cindy Sheehan). But now we're seeing similar action taken by German state television.
German state television is upset about the rampant doping problems with cycling, and their taking matters into their own hands. In response to T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz's testing positive for testosterone German channels ARD and ZDF didn't decide to merely cover the incident. They've packed up their cameras and gone home. Despite the fact that more than a million Germans watch the Tour de France, the networks have shelved their coverage until the Sinkewitz case is resolved.
"We cannot wait until the Tour is over," ZDF editor Nikolaus Brender told the broadcaster's lunchtime news. "There is a constant suspicion of doping."The decision is really a curious one, and it's dubious as to who is actually being punished here. The two networks were planning on showing over 90 hours of Tour coverage before their decision, and the fans are the ones really missing out. If the networks were really interested in punishing the riders involved, they could devote their coverage and commentary to shaming the cheaters. The head of the Tour's organizer, Amaury Sport Organisation, also questioned the move:
"This decision is paradoxical as it results in a sanction against the Tour de France, which shows its will to fight against doping," ASO chairman Patrice Clerc told reporters in Marseille where the 10th stage finished on Wednesday.This is a move it can make because it doesn't have share-holders to answer to and profits to raise. But in taking their moral stand ARD and ZDF are going against the wishes of it's real shareholders - the German people. If FOX chose to they could boycott all San Francisco Giants games, claiming a moral imperative not to reward the alleged steroids used Barry Bonds. But because they're a private company it's their prerogative to do so. At least in theory these German networks answer to the people, and here they are doing their "bosses" a disservice. So get that cycling back on the air!
17 July 2007
Last Saturday night began like a night unfamiliar to the stereotypical blogger - I took my girlfriend out to dinner for her birthday. I chose a Greek place called Papadakis Taverna, which I was vaguely aware had some football connections. The owner's son is Petros Papadakis, former USC tailback and announcer extraordinaire for a variety of LA sports and radio shows. He's also the host of Spike's "Pros v. Joes." By the end of the night, it became a night worthy of a sports blog.
That's because Petros Papadakis was our waiter. The glory and shock of it all went right over my girlfriend's head. "Petros who?" she wondered. But being served by Petros was truly a glorious affair. Yes, he's as brash and entertaining as he is on the radio and tv. It was fun to watch.
Like he must have done 1,000 times before, Petros acted as our waiter. He brought out the tray of meat, he danced with the rest of the waiters, he lighted the cheese on fire, and he showed off his big mouth.
"How's the lamb?" Petros asked us after bringing out our meals. "I sucked the fat right out of it myself!"This could easily turn into a hit-job on Petros. Yet there's no reason to be mean. I'd guess he doesn't do it for the money - he probably doesn't need it. And I don't know how often he does it. But more than anything it was touching to see him there. Petros has made it in many ways, he's all over SoCal radio and TV. Yet he hasn't turned his back on his family. He's not too good to wait tables any more. He was there alongside the rest of the Papadakis clan, taking part in the family business. It was more a definition of what it means to be family than anything else. You used to hear about family restaurants, but this one was here in the flesh.
The meal and the entire experience was tremendous. Have you ever eaten at a place that had a belly dancer, violin player, opera singer, and tap dancer all as entertainment? You can find it at Papadakis. Most importantly, my girlfriend had a great time. That's the most important thing - Petros or no Petros.
While I'm at it - Hey Petros! How'd you like that tip I left you?
For years authorities have been trying to cope with the inevitable occurrence that scares many. It could happen at any time, and people must always be vigilant to protect themselves from it. And now those in charge are doing more to help its constituents. We're not talking terrorism here, but instead foul balls.
Yes, foul balls. It's estimated that between 30 to 60 foul balls leave the playing field each game, and teams are now gearing up to protect their fans better. The federal government has a color scheme to help citizens. Baseball has its own system. Ushers, two-way radios, closed-circuit cameras that track the flight of each ball, and medical staff all make sure the foul ball experience is as pain free as possible. But some teams will leave nothing to chance.
At RFK and at parks in Cleveland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and others, ushers are trained to rush to where every foul ball lands in the stands, then raise a card -- blue to indicate all clear, yellow if a fan needs help.If this is the system in place for foul balls, imagine what they've got in place for natural disasters and the like. I've never thought of the foul balls as an issue, and in fact I wish more came my way when I attend games. Knowing that they've got this system in place, I'm wondering when they'll institute a new one to track spilt beers and dropped hot dogs. Now that's a system I could value!
In Fry's "command center," staff monitoring closed-circuit cameras watch for the card. When it's yellow, the seat's location is quickly determined and a medical staffer is dispatched to help the ushers who are rendering immediate attention.
16 July 2007
Mycolts.net was launched this week as one of the first social networking sites created by an NFL team. Forget facebook groups. Now fans of the World Champions of Professional Football can hang out with each other online. They can also take advantage of:
-A large photo gallery space for users
-User-friendly pages for fans to blog and build personal profiles
-Interactive calendars where users can post their own events or search for events based on dates, groups, and location
10,000 people have already signed up for Mycolts.net – likely getting ready for another run at the Super Bowl. There is no word on whether Peyton Manning will have his own set of TV ads promoting the site.
The development of this has to make you wonder if all sports teams (and possibly bands, schools, etc.) are going to create their own networking sites where people can have special profiles particular to that team or school or sport. Will these sites become a place for commonality in a cyberspace where MySpace and Facebook have become too big for their own good? Or, most importantly, how often are the ten female members of Mycolts.net going to get hit on?
Time will only tell on these things (well, except for the girls getting hit on). But, until then, just be thankful that the Jeff Saturday fans of the world have a place to call their own.
Posted by The Animal at 11:08 PM
15 July 2007
When the Altanta Braves traded for relief pitcher Wilredo Ledezma on June 20th, they didn't really get what they had hoped for. In eight appearances with the Braves he's 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA. But when the team allowed Ledezma to return to his native Venezuela over the All-Star break, they really didn't anticipate what would happen next.
The sole lefty in the Braves bullpen is getting a longer break than he or the team had expected. Ledezma is stuck in Maracay, Venezuela after what the team referred to as a "washing incident." It seems as if Ledezma was a little careless during the course of doing his laundry.
Ledezma apparently forgot to take his passport out of his pants pocket before tossing it into the washing machine. The rest, they say, is history.
Braves GM John Schuerholz said Ledezma's passport was damaged and his visa, which had been attached to the passport, was lost. As a result, the left-hander had to reapply for both documents and is not expected to return to Atlanta until the middle of next week.
"It's unfortunate, but it will be dealt with," Schuerholz said. "He's trying to get it expedited as quickly as possible."
It's not uncommon for foreign players to return home during the All-Star break. But they almost always return back to their clubs on time.
"This is the first time it's ever happened to me," Schuerholz said. "It's never happened in 42 years, so I'm fine with it. Those are pretty good odds. I'd like them to keep a close watch on their passports though. [It's] unfortunate, but it'll be dealt with."Who knows what really happened with Ledezma's passport. The premise does seem to have some "Jeff Kent breaking his wrist while washing his truck" elements to it, but I've fallen into the same trap of leaving things in my pockets before as well.
12 July 2007
In 1964 The Beatles flew over from England and conquered America. Now, 43 years later, David Beckham and his handlers are hoping for the same thing. The initial results of the publicity seem to be paying off, and perhaps Beckham's 5-year, $250 million contract isn't looking so bad after all.
Beckham's move to the Los Angeles Galaxy is already filling up the team's coffers. He hasn't even played a game yet, and the team's new jersey was only officially announced today. Nonetheless, over a quarter of a million jerseys have already been pre-ordered sight unseen.
"We're already well over a quarter of a million units that were ordered ... without knowledge of what they were going to look like," Galaxy president Alexi Lalas told the club's website.As a frame of reference, Real Madrid sold over one million Beckham kits during his first six months with the team. And considering Beckham has yet to appear in a Galaxy uniform, that number may not be unobtainable.
"We will look to do significant numbers and historic numbers not just with an MLS context but with an international jersey context," he added.
The Beckham hype train has already appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated and W Magazine. The next big events for the star will be his introduction tomorrow, and his first game in a friendly against Chelsea on July 21. Now that MLS and the Galaxy have done everything for him aside from naming the league after him, it's high time for him to start scoring some goals.
(HT: T.J. Hunter)
Today was a sad day for all of baseball, and especially its older fans still holding on to the shreds of their youth. Julio Franco is no longer the oldest player in Major League Baseball.
Just 5 1/2 weeks before his 49th birthday, the veteran infielder was designated for assignment by the Mets on Thursday.Franco was rarely used this season, appearing in 40 games, batting .200 with one home run and only eight RBI. Franco had essentially been operating as a defacto "player-coach" this season, giving guidance to the younger players. His departure is probably more due to the larger sweeping changes the Mets undertook today, with their decision to install Rickey Henderson as batting coach. And when you think about that, don't you wonder if the team is just asking for trouble there? It's like asking Dennis Rodman or Jose Canseco to join the coaching staff, isn't it? Fireworks ahead!
If no other club claims Franco off waivers or trades for him, he will become a free agent in 10 days. At that point Franco can begin looking for a new team in his quest to play until he's 50.
The release of Franco stings the most for the middle-aged man of America. For years they could point to the 1991 batting champion and say, "See, I could still do this if I tried." And just like nobody believes Tommy Lasorda wears size 40 pants if that's what is sewn in, we can all wink when Franco says he's only 48 years old.
Franco is an inspiring tale, and it will hopefully only be a matter of time before he lands a player-coach role with another MLB team.
11 July 2007
We all know Yi Jianlian isn't really thrilled with having been picked by the Milwaukee Bucks in last month's draft. Thus far his management team has proved to be difficult, worried about Milwaukee's small market and its lack of ethnic Chinese fans there. And while Yi obviously hasn't had the beer there yet, he's also unlikely to pull a Danny Ferry. So with all the thoughts going on in his head, Yi should be listening to...Scottie Pippen?
That's right. Scottie knows best. He's the guy who's smart enough to enjoy life, spending all of his $109 career salary. But he's equally smart to have earned almost $80,000 in 2003-2005 through government checks through farm subsidies from the federal government. On a promotional trip to Beijing, Pippen was asked about Yi and his situation.
So what says wise sage Pippen?
"Just looking at the fact that he doesn't want to play in that market, I think he should really try to reconsider and embrace the fact that not only are you a part of the NBA, but you have a chance to go out and make a name for yourself," Pippen told reporters here.That's right, take it from Scottie. He knows how to respond best when you don't get your way. But Yi shouldn't refuse to play. In this case at least, Pippen is right though. The only way Yi's going to gain any respect or have any future in the NBA is to show up and play out his contract with the Bucks. He won't get another one auditioning against chairs. This time Yi needs to go out there and prove himself.
"The city of Milwaukee is going to be very happy to have him there. They are more than open and ready to embrace him," the former Chicago Bull added.
10 July 2007
In what had to be considered a pretty shocking announcement to most, Michigan ended one of the longest standing relationships between a college athletic program and a corporate sponsor today when it announced a eight-year deal with adidas starting with the 2008-09 season. The contract includes a $6.5 MM signing bonus and a $3.8 MM in cash annually, and that's not even mentioning seven figures worth of equipment and royalties on a yearly basis.
What makes the agreement so shocking is that Michigan, in addition to its standing as one of the top brands in college sports, has been in business with Nike for so long and made one of the first landmark deals between a college and an athletic supplier. (If you want to read more on that, read here)
While few will ever know for sure why the deal was made, you would have to think that it mostly comes down to the fact that adidas, looking for more high profile schools to bring into the fray, was willing to spend more than Nike, which has the lion's share of the top money makers in college sports (Texas, Florida, Ohio State and Southern Cal. to name a few). However, you would have to think that Nike put up some sort of fight to keep such a high-profile asset.
This is just another reminder of the fact that Division I college sports are truly a business.
Posted by The Animal at 10:18 PM
Finally there's a prison sentence that everyone can agree is just. A judge today refused to reduce the sentence of Mark Downs Jr., a former youth baseball coach convicted of bribing a player to bean his 9-year-old autistic teammate.
Downs argued in his appeal that his former lawyer was ineffective. Well, yeah dude. It's hard to be effective when you're defending someone who paid someone to throw a ball at an autistic kid! Think about it.
Downs was convicted of corruption of minors and simple assault for offering $25 to an 8-year-old boy to hit his mildly autistic teammate with a ball while warming up before a June 2005 playoff game. The younger boy testified at trial that, on Downs' instructions, he purposely threw a ball that hit his teammate in the groin, then threw another that hit him in the ear.What's sicker in all of this? That he bribed the kid in the first place? Or is it that Downs goaded the kid into throwing again after the first ball missed? Or could it be that Downs never even ended up paying the kid?
What was Downs' problem with the autistic kid? He wanted to win. League rules stipulated that each player must play at least three innings. But the kid wasn't as talented as the other players, so Downs didn't want him in the game. Of course, it was the playoffs!
So as Downs sits in jail for the next 1-6 years, he can make himself feel better by recalling the words of the great Herm Edwards - "You play to win the game!"
09 July 2007
Move over Scooter Libby, there's a new person whose prison sentence might be in need of a commutation. Sports Agent Gustavo "Gus" Domiguez was sentenced to five years in prison today by a federal judge. The crime? Smuggling Cubans. But we're not talking about cigars. Instead Dominguez will be doing time for smuggling major-league baseball prospects out of Cuba.
Dominguez, who has represented dozens of Cuban defectors and other major league players, was convicted in April of smuggling five prospects out of Cuba to the Florida Keys and then on to California, where he shopped them to potential teams.From an outsider's POV with no context, the sentence does seem quite harsh. Although depending on the way you look at it, the prison yard may be a great place to find hidden gems with great arms. There may not be many 5-tool players in prison, but 3 or 4-tools? You never know.
The case was believed to be the first directly linking smuggling with the business of baseball, which is Cuba's national sport as well as the traditional U.S. national pastime.
Like Libby's case earlier in the year, Dominguez also solicited letters of leniency from his supporters. He didn't have any written by Paul Wolfowitz or John Bolton, but one letter was written by none other than HOF pitcher and LIO hero Sandy Koufax.
"I have always considered Gus to be a person of strong character and high moral principles. He has an unshakable love for his culture and does his best to serve as a role model to the players he represents, especially Latin players," Koufax wrote to the judge.I hope to never need a leniency letter ever. That being said, Koufax can write me a letter of recommendation any time.
Beware soccer fans! No country is safe from crazed fans. This time its Polish and Lithuanian soccer hooligans who are at it again!
What was supposed to be a low-key Intertoto match between Lithuania's Vetra Vilnius and Poland's Legia Warsaw became anything but. The match was abandoned at halftime after Polish fans got a little upset - or maybe you could call it a rampage. The fans thought it would be prudent to take the field, attacking police with metal bars and stones, and causing damage to the stadium.
Legia Warsaw's president Leszek Miklas did the dutiful and obligatory dance of contrition, hoping to stave off any penalties from the incident.
"We have decided to end our tolerance of those ruining the reputation of Legia, Poland and football...and are appealing to the Interior and Justice ministries to help us identify the offenders," Miklas told a news conference.
While you're at it, take a look at the video from "riot," it doesn't look like anything other than funny. That being said, I wasn't a cop down on the field, but it looks more like the Madison, Wisconsin Halloween scene as opposed to some full scale riot. OK, I would have been scared. Aside from noticing what a make-shift field they were playing on (only porta-potties?), there was another glaring aspect to the video. Was it just me, or was every single hooligan wearing a hooded sweatshirt? Is that all they sell in Poland and Lithuania? If they were true fans they would have rioted wearing the jersey of their favorite team.
08 July 2007
Love him or hate him, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is one tremendous player. No matter your feelings towards him, it's possible for all to agree on one aspect of the A-Rod universe. In deciding to play through an injury and participate in Tuesday's All Star Game, A-Rod did the right thing.
"With 3.9 million votes, you feel like you have a responsibility to go out there and play," said Rodriguez. "The game is about the fans, and to get that many votes, you feel like you have a responsibility to go out there and play well."In a day and age where athletes and celebrities often brush off the fans that make them who they are, it's nice to see Rodriguez stand up and do what's right. Too often stars skirt around the All Star game with phantom injuries and excuses, and the game is tatters because of it.
A-Rod could have easily used his hamstring as his ticket out of participating in Tuesday's game, and in this case it would have been legit - he did miss time because of it. Yet in choosing to to play and acknowledge the fans who voted him in, he deserves the same acknowledgment back for thinking the right way.
Oh, what to make of Atlanta Braves center fielder Andruw Jones. He's a five-time All Star, and nine-time winner of the Gold Glove award. But three months from free agency, Jones has had a difficult contract year. In May ESPN writer Jayson Stark labeled Jones the most overrated center fielder of all time. Jones has a bigger problem though, and it's coming from within. With millions of dollars on the line, Jones is flirting far too closely to the Mendoza Line.
Jones' performance this far is troublesome and confusing at the same time. Going into Sunday's game Jones is batting .204 for the season, 29 points lower than any other major league center fielder. He's also on pace to strike out a career-high 166 times.
Yet the same player who has struggled mightily to bat for average is doing exceptionally in the power department. Jones does have 15 home runs and 54 RBI, putting him in the top three for his position.
So how should prospective teams view Mr. Jones? A power hitter masquerading as a center fielder, or is it the other way around? Now in his 12th season, is Jones' body wearing down, and will his defense be the next to slip? Or could it be that he is an exceptional player that is just in an extraordinary slump?
In a world where Juan Pierre can get $45 million over 5 years, Jones and his agent Scott Boras really have nothing to worry about.
"Look in between, and you'll still have a guy who hits 35-40 home runs and drives in 115. For a center fielder, that's unbelievable," Boras said. "And he plays Gold Glove defense."That's right. Some team will sign Jones this winter, likely at an inflated price. Just think about what Boras has done for his other clients.
"Magglio Ordonez got a contract for $105 million, and he barely played," Boras said.If Ordonez could get that kind of money only having played 50 games the previous season, then Jones should sleep better at night. Just keep swinging for the fences Andruw, all will be well.
07 July 2007
LIO made its third time on Jamie Mottram and Dan Steinberg's "The Blog Show" a charm last night. Thanks to everyone involved in The Blog Show for including us once again. Previous LIO appearances on The Blog Show can be found here and here.
Posted by Fun Sheriff at 11:45 AM
05 July 2007
ESPN has taken their desperation for July programming to a whole new level. You thought it was bad when the four letter started “Who’s Now?” a contest to find out the biggest athlete in
But just wait until July 21st, when ESPN gives David Beckham’s first match with the LA Galaxy against English power
-A special 90 minute SportsCenter three hours before the match that includes a half-hour entirely on Beckham
-A one-hour special on Beckham’s arrival in the states
-A Beckham cam, which will be featured on ESPN360.com, that will only follow Beckham
-A Celebrity cam, which will identify celebrity fans and show their reaction to Beckham’s play
-An appearance by Reggie Bush in the booth to discuss adidas’ “Futbol vs. Football” campaign in which Bush appears with Beckham
-Expanded coverage on ESPNEWS the week before the game
At least we get to see the celebrity reaction!
Posted by The Animal at 10:56 PM
04 July 2007
03 July 2007
Washington Nationals Pitcher Jesus Colome is in some serious trouble. His ass is getting kicked, - by his own body. The reliever is still in the hospital with an infection to his right buttocks. He was placed on the DL late last month with what was then termed a "soft tissue infection in a right lower extremity."
But it's now just a problem with the buttocks, and it seems to be more than just a one big butt joke.
"It's a serious situation," Nationals GM Jim Bowden said. "We pray for his buttocks and his family."There you have it. The quote of the season so far. Should we really be praying for the buttocks before the family? However you want to call it, let's hope Colome's ass, who is 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in 40 appearances this year gets back on the field sometime soon.
02 July 2007
Former University of Washington and newly drafted Sacramento Kings center Spencer Hawes is going to fit in just fine in his new home. Hawes is a hardcore conservative, and should feel at home with Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most prominent Republican Governors leading the state. In fact, Hawes said he "loves" him.
But Conservative status aside, there's one major disagreement between Hawes and the Governator. And that would be global warming. Hawes took up the subject during a public debate class he took during his yearlong stay at UW.
In it, he said, he denied the entire existence -- and human cause -- of global warming. When asked for his take on Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Hawes said, "It's one big lie. I talked about that in my opening speech -- it's the media's liberal overexaggeration of just about everything."People can certainly believe whatever they choose to. But perhaps Hawes should have taken some more science classes during his brief tenure at UW. I can see this dyed-in-the-wool Conservative being a fan favorite from the beginning in Arco Arena. It's a match made in heaven.
Has Hawes stopped to think that maybe debate is his true calling? He can start off his rookie season by sparring off with Al Gore. Now that's something I'd like to see.
(HT: TNR's The Plank)
Last month the first Chinese baseball players were signed by the Yankees and Mariners. Is this the start of a burgeoning trend, with baseball's version of Yao Ming soon to be taking the mound for a Major League team?
If you listen to Chinese national team manager Jim Lefebvre (yes, that Jim Lefebvre), the answer is probably not.
"China has no Little League, no high school, no college," Lefebvre, a former major league player and manager, said during a recent telephone interview. "Baseball is a very young sport in China and has no grassroots programs like we see for the kids from Latin America, the U.S., everywhere. Even Europe has better programs."In a country dominated by ping pong, soccer, and basketball, there's just no room for baseball. Yes, there is the Chinese Baseball League, which consists of six teams playing a 30-game schedule, but there's little exposure to America's pastime. It also doesn't help that the CBL's games are attended only by a few hundred per game.
But those who do attend the games observe a skill level far below their Asian neighbors Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The Chinese players don't have much or any experience throwing a baseball. As a result, arm-strength is low, with pitchers generally throwing in the mid-70s. Stolen bases are also found at a much higher level because catchers don't usually have the power to throw anyone out.
And the lack of knowledge on the game also shows.
"The players are very intelligent but they do make a lot of mistakes. They don't understand the score, how to play the game, strategies," Lefebvre said. "When they get a guy on first with no outs, they bunt him to second and then bunt him to third and hope something happens after that."Lefebvre believes it will be the next generation of Chinese players that really makes its mark in the major leagues. Already an international game, MLB will eagerly be waiting for them to come.
01 July 2007
Washington Nationals Pitcher John Patterson has a problem. He's been on the DL for two months with a slow to heal nerve problem in his right elbow. And after visiting four doctors in four states, he's still had no success.
So Patterson is heading to Canada for treatment. Is it because he saw Michael Moore's "Sicko" over the weekend? Probably not, but here's why:
Asked why his opening-day starter is going out of the country for medical treatment, Nationals Manager Manny Acta said, "It's because that treatment is not approved here in the States yet."Acta said that Patterson's proposed treatment is similar to the homeopathic treatment Athletics closer Huston Street underwent recently.
This injury isn't anything for Patterson.
His nerve problem was first identified last season, when he made just eight starts for the Nationals. He had surgery July 20 to decompress the median nerve in his right arm, and spent this spring trying to rebuild arm strength, but in eight starts this season, he never regained his velocity. He went 1-5 with a 7.47 ERA, last pitching in Chicago May 5.It must be scary to be in the position of Patterson, wondering about your arm, and the career implications that its continued troubles brings. And it's even scarier to have to go to another country in the quest to solve your health troubles. I suppose if Patterson has seen "Sicko," then he must be wondering if he should be going to Cuba instead. Personally, I'd stick with Toronto.