Category Archives: Sports

IF UNC DOESN’T DESERVE DEATH PENALTY, WHO DOES?

Congratulations to Roy Williams.

He has been able to keep a straight face while saying that he had no idea that many of his basketball players at North Carolina were taking sham courses in the Afro-American studies program.

This is the institution of higher learning that, according to a whistle blower in the UNC Athletic Department,has, for decades, been giving scholarships to athletes who read at somewhere between the fourth and eighth grade level.

The results of an independent investigation by former federal prosecutor Kenneth L Wainstein were released on Wednesday and if the NCAA doesn’t issue the death penalty to UNC’s athletic program, then it is even more useless than anyone could have imagined.

The scam was first brought to light by Mary Willingham, who worked as an academic counselor for UNC athletes. She spoke of “students” who couldn’t read beyond the fourth grade level and a few who couldn’t read at all.

That led to Wainstein’s investigation.

In simple terms, the scam involved steering black athletes toward courses in Afro-American studies. Whatever grade they needed to remain eligible was the grade they received without the inconvenience of, you know, going to class or taking tests.

But, really, why should anybody be surprised that kids, who are reading at an elementary school level, would have to cheat to stay eligible?

One of those players was Rashad McCants. He told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in June that Williams helped him manipulate his transcript from the fall of 2004. He replaced failing grades that semester with passing grades from summer school courses to keep him eligible.

Williams appeared on the show with 11 of his former players and said – with a straight face – that he didn’t know what McCants was talking about.

According to the investigation, five of the players on UNC’s 2005 national championship team were enrolled in a total of 39 bogus classes.

So, when does that 2005 championship banner come down?
Williams should have been fired by now.

Maybe you believe that he didn’t know what was going on, even though UNC football coaches have admitted to being aware of the scam, but I’m not buying it for a minute.

How many kitchens did Williams sit in over the years and promise the parents of a potential recruit that he could be trusted to make sure that their son would get a good education?

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt has already fired four people and put five others under disciplinary review. Personnel laws prevent her from making their names public.

I’m betting that Williams still has his job.

Folt has some plausible deniability since she’s only been on the job since 2013, but, based on the pervasiveness and long history of the corruption, it’s hard to believe that someone didn’t at least mention it to her at a cocktail party.

Folt could do the right thing – fire multiple coaches and impose the death penalty on her own football and basketball programs instead of waiting for the NCAA to come up with reasons not to do it- but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

The NCAA will get around to ruling on the UNC case after it conducts a study on the effectiveness of allowing athletes to spread cream cheese on their bagels.

Don’t bet on the national media putting much pressure on the NCAA. The reaction, based on what I’ve seen since the results of the investigation were released on Wednesday, has been a long, collective yawn.

And this story is not one that should only interest the sports media. It’s not just about basketball and football. It’s about lousy high schools that graduate kids (mostly black) who have trouble reading The Cat in the Hat.

Where’s the outrage over kids who read at the fourth grade level being able to get a high school diploma?

And who thinks that the University of North Carolina is the only institution of higher learning that allows this to go on in the interest of justifying billion dollar TV contracts?

I once watched a college football player at a major university put the free books he had just picked up on the first day of the semester under his desk. Three months later, I saw that the books hadn’t been touched. I also know that he didn’t go to one class that semester.

He was given the answers to tests before he took them.
He made the Dean’s List.
That was in 1970.

NFL AND POLITICIANS THICK AS THIEVES

Don’t you just love those venerable, old stadiums and ball parks? Wrigley Field. Fenway Park. Dodger Stadium. Lambeau Field. The Rose Bowl. Edward Jones Dome.

In case that last one kind of caught you off guard, it’s the dump where the St. Louis Rams play.

The Rams want a new stadium and they, with the help of the NFL, are using a not so veiled threat to move to Los Angeles in order to get it.

The Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995. Yep, 19 years ago.

Remember when teams used to play in the same building for 50 or 60 years? That was when team owners paid for their own buildings.

As of 2012, 125 of the 140 teams in the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer, were playing in stadiums built or refurbished since 1990. Most, if not all of them, were paid for mostly with tax payer dollars at a cost of more than $30 billion.

You’ve heard all the arguments about what a great idea it is for local and state governments to subsidize pro franchises.

They’re usually made by consultants paid for by team owners, or stupid and/or corrupt politicians. Economists who study the effect of the new stadiums after the fact tend to blow that theory out of the water.

Greg Mankiw, who’s chairman of the economics department at Harvard, did a survey of economists and 85% of them said that local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises.

What do you suppose the local “leaders” were telling the fine citizens of St. Louis in the early nineties when they were trying to sell them on the idea of spending a quarter of a billion dollars on a stadium for the team that was going to be re-locating from Los Angeles?

Georgia Fronteire, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, was tired of sharing a stadium with the California Angels and decided to move when she found out that the local politicians weren’t dumb or corrupt enough to give her one of her own.

So, here we are 19 years later and the usual promises and threats are being made.

There will be even more economic benefits with the new stadium than they got from the old dome and the Rams are threatening to move again.

To L.A., of course.

They would like a new $700 million stadium and would like the local taxpayers to pay for it.

As usual, there is plenty of media cheerleading being done on the part of the local thieves…er, team. In his St. Louis Post-Dispatch column on Tuesday, Bryan Burwell showed lots of impatience with the team and local politicians for not coming up with a deal that would keep the Rams in St. Louis.

Nowhere in his column did he question whether giving the Rams one dime of other people’s money to replace a 19 year old stadium was a good idea.

Nothing new in St. Louis.
It has happened and will continue to happen in cities all over North America.
The Rams will get their new stadium.

The NFL will let everyone know that it is willing to pay for half the cost of a new stadium in Los Angeles. More teams will threaten to move there and one eventually will.
That will open up another jilted city for an expansion team.

Remember Cleveland?

The jilted fans will be easily convinced that a new stadium will bring jobs, improve the quality of life in their neighborhood and help them overcome the embarrassment of losing a team.

Owners will get richer and politicians will be re-elected.

They all should be arrested.

GO PRO, YOUNG MAN. GO PRO

The next thing Todd Gurley should sign is an FXFL contract.

In case you hadn’t heard, the FXFL is a new professional football league and it’s tailor-made for a guy like Gurley, who appears to have been a little anxious to start making money for running with a football.

Gurley is almost universally considered the best running back in the country. He’s 6’1”, 220 pounds and he’s averaging – are you ready?- 8.2 yards a carry in college football’s best conference, the SEC.

Apparently Todd was studying too hard last year to notice that Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M got in a lot of trouble with the NCAA for creating the suspicion that he was getting money for his autograph.

Manziel’s “suspension” was for only half a game because the NCAA couldn’t prove that he ever received direct payment for signings.

Georgia has suspended Gurley indefinitely until the investigation into his alleged violation is completed.

So, here we have a 20 year-old football player who’s averaging more than eight yards a carry and may not be able to carry the ball again this season because of a stupid violation of an even more stupid rule.

Seems like a perfect time to turn pro.

Unfortunately for Gurley, the NFL has a really stupid rule of its own that prevents guys like him from playing until they are a full three years beyond high school graduation.

In a sane world – one in which there is no pro football monopoly – Gurley would be able to say, “Whoops, I violated a stupid rule. I don’t want to play college football anymore. I’d prefer to be paid for playing and I think I’m just as ready now as I’m going to be next August.”

The NFL would have you believe that this stupid, un-American rule is in the best interest of college student-athletes. You would only believe that if you were as stupid as the rule.

But, watch how the media will focus on Gurley’s stupidity and even more on the stupidity of the rule he violated and watch how they will ignore the stupidity, not to mention the immorality of the NFL rule.

Here’s where the FXFL comes in.

At least this is where it should come in.

The league consists of four teams made up of players who have had tryouts with NFL teams in the last three years. ESPN3 has agreed to televise its games, which began last week.

Todd Gurley should be able to tell the NCAA and the University of Georgia to take a hike and he should call the FXFL and say he’s available to play next week.

The FXFL, of course, would benefit from the publicity and sell lots of tickets to Gurley’s first game.

This is unlikely to happen because the FXFL is in the process of kissing the NFL’s behind in hopes of developing a working agreement similar to Major League Baseball’s affiliation with minor league baseball.

It would be nice if Gurley could sue the NFL for the right to play based on anti-trust violations but a kid from Ohio State, Maurice Clarett, tried that in 2004. He won his case in court, but the decision was overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge who rendered the decision was Sonia Sotomayor, who’s now on the Supreme Court and may or may not be an NFL season ticket holder.

Remember the outrage from the national sports media last year when Manziel was being persecuted for allegedly making a few bucks with his autograph?

Remember how the NCAA was ridiculed?

The NCAA has since agreed to tweak its rules to give more power to teams in the five big conferences, which could eventually lead to players being paid.

But the NFL’s ridiculous and stupid rule that prevents perfectly qualified players from playing in the only major pro football league in America will get no tweaking.

And watch the lapdog media give the NFL a pass and focus instead on the stupidity of a 20 year-old college kid.

WHAT FOOTBALL MEANS

This is an excerpt from the last chapter of my book “Just Watch The Game.” The chapter is called, “Mighty,Mighty St.B’s”

It’s about the football team at the Catholic grade school I attended more than 50 years ago.

The team lost one game in the 1950s.

Winning was important. Football was considered as much a part of a boy’s education as anything learned in the classroom.

And nobody apologized for it.

The Pastor, Father Lonergan, contributed columns to the weekly church bulletin.

I thought the first NFL Sunday was a good time to share this with the Twittersphere. Feel free to retweet it.

Or frame it.
**************************************************************

On September 10, 1950, here’s what appeared in the Sunday Bulletin under the heading “What Football Means At St. Bernard.”

Football at St. Bernard is not merely a form of recreation; it is much more.

Every person has certain fundamental problems to face in life. It makes all the difference in the world whether a person faces his problems honestly, with courage and intelligence, or tries to sneak around the problems of life

There is no place on the football field for the sluggard, the shirker,the leaner, the quitter, the coward, the egotist, the scatterbrain or the dolt.

Most of these faults are the result of pampering. In a football game, the opposing team is seldom inclined to do much pampering. Football is just clean, hard give and take.
What a training to face the stern realities of life.

We have a lot of fine boys in St. Bernard’s School and our aim is to bring out all of the best in them. We saw what football did to the boys last year.

(Undefeated championship team.)

The benefit was almost unbelievable. It is a pity that many boys are physically unfit to take part in the training. They are missing something, just on account of their physical handicap, they need most urgently. They are our problems. The real football boy is seldom a problem. He has learned to tackle problems.

**************************************************************
I know none of that explains Plaxico Burress, but, it was a different time.

The Oakland Raiders: “Just Move, Baby”

Oakland Al would be proud.
That would be the late Oakland Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland-soon to be somewhere else Raiders.
The team’s slogan has always been one of Al’s favorite expressions: “Just Win, Baby.”

It could just as easily be “Just Move, Baby.”

The franchise has moved a lot more than it’s won lately. It began in Oakland in 1960, moved to Los Angeles in 1982 when Al didn’t get the new stadium he wanted from the fine citizens of Oakland and then moved back to Oakland in 1994 when he didn’t get the stadium he wanted from the fine citizens of Los Angeles.

Al died in 2011 and his son Mark took over the team and he didn’t fall far from his father’s tree. He’s threatening to move again.

The Raiders could be headed back to Los Angeles, the city that the NFL has used since 1994 to extort money from stupid, corrupt politicians in other cities to get new and/or improved stadiums for multiple franchises.

In an astonishing display of civic duty, the NFL has actually floated the idea of paying for the stadium with league money.

In the meantime, Mark has floated the idea of moving the team to San Antonio. He has actually met with stupid, corrupt public officials there who, while wining, dining and taking him on a helicopter tour of the city,promised to do whatever it takes to bring the Raiders there.

The lying has already begun.

Davis said he just happened to be passing through San Antonio when he ran into his old friend former mayor Henry Cisneros and Henry mentioned something about moving his football team there.

The city manager released a memo saying that she had met with Davis after he had expressed interest in moving to her city.

Mark says he doesn’t want much – just a small intimate stadium that seats 50,000 fans and has room for a spot to “Put a statue of my father.”

And three or four hundred million dollars.

That’s at least how much it would cost San Antonio taxpayers to build a new stadium for the Raiders after the Alamodome outlived its usefulness in a few years.

And Davis has already told officials in Oakland that he could cough up $300 million for a new stadium there. The NFL would add $200 million more if the taxpayers would be kind enough to have $300 million more confiscated from them.

It’s hard to believe that this is still going on.

Oakland officials have already started sweetening the pot because of Davis’ not so secret trip to Texas.

There has been no political scandal in America larger or worse than the bi-partisan (Republicans have no shame when it come to this stuff) fleecing of taxpayers by state and local politicians to enrich the owners of sports teams who, for decades, have also had the benefit of a government-granted monopoly.

And it would not be possible without the media, most of whom can be counted on to do the cheerleading for the billionaire owners, who are either trying to extort the local politicians by threatening to leave, or promising pie-in-the-sky economic benefits to the soon to be fleeced taxpayers in their new location.

The sad thing is that the people of San Antonio and Oakland would probably benefit more from the government throwing a billion dollars out of a helicopter than they will from a billion dollar stadium that sits empty 340 days a year.

DUNGY, SAM AND BEN

Tony Dungy is homophobe of the week.

He’s spending time in the national media’s barrel because, when asked about Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, he said he would not have drafted him if he were still an NFL head coach.

Dungy was a wildly successful and universally admired player and coach in the NFL for more than 30 years and is now an analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America, the number one rated TV show in the United States. He gave an honest answer and said that Sam would be a distraction and that, ” It’s not going to be totally smooth…things will happen.”

He teed himself up for the self-righteous national media and they knocked him out of the park.
But Dungy knows things that very few in the media know.

He knows what it’s like to be in an NFL locker room, not as an interloper, but as a member of the team. And here’s something else he knows that all but a microscopic sliver of the media critics don’t know: He knows what it’s like to be black. He knows that gay black men have it much tougher than gay white men. Everybody knows that two-thirds of the players in an NFL locker room are black.
The white media stars who got on their high horses and lectured Dungy on his hypocritical lack of tolerance could have done a 10 second Google search and found plenty of references to the unique hardships endured by gay black men.

They could have found this quote from openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon: “It’s quite different for an African-American male. It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.”

They might have found the study done by Rutgers journalism professor Michael LaSala last year for the Journal of GLBT Studies that found that being a gay black man presents unique challenges.One challenge, according to LaSala is “The rigid expectations of exaggerated masculinity” held by many in the black community.

LaSala says, it was a common theme among relatives of gay black men that, “They carry a special stigma that some straight black males may find particularly disturbing. The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you’re further hurting the image of African-American men.”

Tony Dungy was in the NFL for over 30 years. He’s been black all his life. Could it be that he knows that, despite what black players say in front of the cameras, many, if not most of them, may not be as tolerant of gay black men as the mostly white media would like to think that they are?

If acceptance of gay men is already a problem among African-Americans, would it be surprising to find even less tolerance in the typical hyper-masculine NFL locker room?

Should it be shocking that Dungy believes, “Things will happen,” and that those things would make it less likely that he could do what he’s paid millions of dollars to do –win a championship?
Of course, Dungy could never say it out loud.

Do you know why?

The mostly white, holier than thou, national media wouldn’t tolerate it for a second.

- The Steelers go into training camp coming off a 6-2 finish last season and, based on their schedule in the first half, they should be at least that good in their next eight games.

They play the Browns, Buccaneers and Texans at home and the Ravens, Panthers, Jaguars and Browns on the road in the first seven weeks. They will be favored in five of those games. Game 8 is against the Colts at home, a tough one but very winnable. If they aren’t at least 5-3 at the halfway point, they’ll have a tough time winning 10 games because the second half schedule is much harder than the first half and much tougher than the last half of 2013.

They have the Saints, Chiefs, Falcons and the Bengals twice in the last five weeks.
It says here that they will go 10-6.

- Ben Roethlisberger has been told not to expect a contract extension this year. He has two years left on the eight-year, $108 million contract he signed before the 2008 season.

Roethlisberger should be forever grateful to the Steelers for not cutting him after his second sexual assault accusation in 2010. Prior to that he had stupidly injured himself while riding a motorcycle without a helmet, been seen riding the motorcycle without a helmet again after recovering from surgery to reconstruct his face and acquired a reputation around town as one of the biggest jerks in Pittsburgh sports history.

His teammates despised him.

The fact that he’s still a Steeler is proof of two things. He is a great player and there is no longer any such thing as “The Steeler Way.”

BYE BYE NCAA?

John Steigerwald column for 7.19/20.14

Isn’t college football wonderful?

Within the next week or two, student-athletes from all over the country will be gathering on college campuses to prepare for another football season.

At least one of them will have a big, fat insurance policy paid for out of the Student Assistance Fund. That’s the fund that schools use to help kids who may need money to fly home for a funeral or to visit a sick relative. You would think that an organization like the NCAA, which, until this year actually had rules against giving football players cream cheese for their bagels, would have a big problem with that.

Texas A&M’s problem was that its All-Everything offensive tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi, was thinking about declaring for the NFL draft after it was presumed that he would be a number one draft pick.

How do you prevent a kid from signing up for the multi-million dollar signing bonuses that number one picks get?

You insure him for a few million dollars against a career ending injury. The associate AD for football, Justin Moore, told Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports that it’s a loophole in the NCAA rules that, “I don’t think many schools know about it. It’s a game changer.”

Keep in mind that it’s the NCAA and its member institutions of higher learning that recoil at any mention of paying athletes anymore than tuition, room and board. How is giving a kid a $60,000 insurance policy any different from giving him $60, 000 in cash?

There were lots of coaches’ ears perking up when they heard that news. Expect lots of highly insured football players in the future and a lot more players sticking around for that extra year.

Not for anything related to academics, of course, but to enhance their draft status.

The NCAA is a corrupt, bloated, obsolete, useless bureaucracy that needs to go away. And, it just may be going before too long.

The Ed O’Bannon class action lawsuit just wrapped up last week and if O’Bannon wins, the NCAA will never be the same. He sued on behalf of players who, among other things, had their likenesses used to sell billions of dollars worth of video games without being compensated.

An attorney who has worked in the highest levels of professional sports (who spoke on condition of anonymity) said this about the lawsuit:

“I haven’t followed the testimony closely enough to predict the outcome, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. (NCAA President Mark) Emmert and his cohorts are like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the final scene where they think they fought off their pursuers, not realizing there are scores more awaiting them. The NCAA as we know it is dead. It’s just a matter of who and what, individually or collectively delivers the kill shot.”

“The five big conferences will have complete authority and the NCAA will be figuring out how to fund the millions of dollars of judgments against it that await.”

He had told me before the trial that I should expect “A crater in Indianapolis where the NCAA sits.”

The judge is expected to rule next month.

Can’t wait to see the crater and the chaos that will follow.

The chaos will ultimately make more sense than the NCAA has made in the last 40 years.