Category Archives: Sports

RETIRE 21. STOP OBSESSING ABOUT 87 AND 71

It’s time for Major League Baseball to retire number 21.

This should be the last season in which any Major League player wears Roberto Clemente’s number.

That’s right. Twenty-one should belong to Clemente the way 42 belongs to the great Jackie Robinson. His number was retired in April of 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Robinson becoming the first black player in MLB history.

It was the right thing to do for too many reasons to count and it was one of the few major decisions made by Major League Baseball that received universal approval.

Robinson’s struggles and ultimate triumphs are well known. If there is ever a Mt. Rushmore for civil rights heroes, he’s on it, right up there with Martin Luther King.

(Clemente actually convinced some of his teammates to protest playing the Pirates’ home opener on April 8th, 1968 because of King’s funeral. The game was moved to April 10th.)

Clemente wasn’t the first black Latin American player in baseball.

He wasn’t even the first black Latin star.

Minnie Minoso was hitting .300 in the big leagues as early as 1951 with the Chicago White Sox.

Clemente was the first black Latin star to speak loudly about the discrimination that still existed toward all black players, but especially the ones who “talked funny.”
Clemente said that he was treated like a “double nigger” because of the color of his skin and his Spanish accent.

It takes world class stupidity for a person, who can only speak one language, to question the intelligence of someone who’s trying to speak a second one, but Clemente dealt with it everyday from people in the street, his teammates, opponents and the media.

I remember a headline in a Pittsburgh newspaper, the morning after Clemente had been knocked down several times by opposing pitchers: “Let Me Peetch.”

Writers thought it was a good idea to quote him phonetically.

If you never saw him play, don’t expect to get a real appreciation for him by Googling his stats.
He finished with 3,000 hits and a .317 batting average but those are numbers.

You had to see him run the bases.

I watched him for 18 years and when I say I never saw him NOT run full speed to first base with his arms flailing and leaning into the bag, I mean never.

And that includes after a one-hopper back to the pitcher.

He has Gold Gloves and a Hall of Famer’s worth of assists, but you had to see him throw to really appreciate his arm.
I think the best word to describe it is ridiculous.

It’s been 42 years since Clemente played his last game and I’ve still never seen anyone throw like that. Indescribable would be another good word.
But none of that is why 21 should be retired by Major League Baseball.

Clemente’s number should be retired because of what he means to millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean, where baseball is more popular than it is in the United States.

He wasn’t the pioneer that Robinson was but he dealt with as much if not more abuse and humiliation because of where he came from, the color of his skin and the way he spoke.

He made no apologies for his heritage. He proudly flaunted it – considered “uppity” by lots of people, including many of his teammates.

Clemente was still playing at a high level in 1972 and was expected to be the Pirates’ right fielder in 1973. Everybody knows why he wasn’t.

After an earthquake devastated the city of Managua in Nicaragua, Clemente organized a campaign in Puerto Rico to send food and medical supplies to aid in the relief effort. When he heard that corrupt politicians were stealing what the Puerto Rican people had sent, he insisted on accompanying the next planeload.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff and Clemente’s body was never recovered.

Clemente is a Latin American hero. Hundreds of schools in the United States and Latin America are named after him.

Every September, Major League Baseball celebrates Roberto Clemente Day. Every year, the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team” is given the Roberto Clemente Award.

It’s time for one more honor for The Great One.

Retire 21.

-If you are among the growing number of people who have decided that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are underachievers because they’ve only won one Stanley Cup, it might help to keep in mind that Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr won two.

Then ask yourself if Crosby and Malkin have played a season with a player as good as Ron Francis.

How about Paul Coffey?

Kevin Stevens?

Rick Tocchet?

Joe Mullen

Larry Murphy?

Mark Recchi?

They are all either Hall of Famers or near Hall of Famers and they all played on either the 1991 Stanley Cup winner or the 1992 Cup winner or both.

That group went to two Stanley Cup Finals. Lemieux never went to another Final after he turned 26.
The difference between going to two Finals instead of one was “The Save” by Frank Pietrangelo.
Championships are rare.

So are chances to play for a championship. Instead of focusing on what the Penguins haven’t done with Crosby and Malkin, think about where they would be without them.

TRASHING THE COWBOYS

Good for Dale Hansen.

He’s a rarity in American sports media for a couple of reasons.

His age and his guts.
Hansen is 66 years old and looks it and he is still working as a weeknight sports anchor in a major TV market.

There aren’t a lot of old, chubby, bald people doing sports on local TV newscasts these days, especially in top 10 markets and sportscasters with the guts (not to mention the permission) to say the kinds of things that Hansen said about his local NFL team are even more rare.

Hansen works for WFAA-TV in Dallas.

Here’s a little of what he had to say about the Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett on his Wednesday sportscast: “He’s one of two things. He’s either a fraud and hypocrite when he talks about having the right type of guys ‘character guys’ on his team… or he really has no say and he’s simply the puppet so many of you think he is.”

And here’s what he had to say about the Cowboys as an organization: “Just when I begin to think the Cowboys can’t sink any lower…they can’t fall from grace any more than they have…they find another shovel and dig a few feet deeper.”

What got Dale Hansen so fired up?

The Cowboys signed Greg Hardy to a contract what will pay him somewhere between $8 and $13 million next season.

You remember Greg. He’s the Carolina Panthers all-pro pass rusher, who was convicted of beating, choking and threatening to kill his girlfriend.

But that was a bench trial – meaning that it was a judge who heard the testimony and found him guilty. Hardy, under North Carolina law, appealed the conviction and asked for a jury trial, even though the judge suspended his 60-day jail sentence and put him on 18 months probation – a slap on the wrist if there ever was one.

His girl friend, probably a few million dollars richer, didn’t show up for the trial and the charges were dropped.

Hardy will probably be suspended for at least a few games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who saw no reason to suspend him after his conviction.

The famous Ray Rice video drew a little too much attention to the NFL’s domestic violence problem and Goodell, who Hansen referred to as “the NFL’s Barney Fife,” put Hardy on the exempt list about 15 minutes after that video went viral.

That meant he couldn’t play, but he would still get his $13 million salary from the Panthers.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones backed Fife ..sorry Goodell…when he suspended Ray Rice. He said “ (Domestic abuse) is intolerable and will be adjudicated accordingly.”

It becomes a lot more tolerable when your team’s biggest need is for a really good pass rusher.

Wonder how Jerry would feel if a video of Hardy with his hands on his girl friend’s throat suddenly showed up.

Maybe you have to be 66 with a successful TV career behind you to have the guts to say this on a local TV newscast in an NFL city, but you can be sure that it wouldn‘t happen in very many NFL cities:

“The irony in this signing? Cowboys vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson (the owner’s daughter) is on the NFL’s personal conduct policy committee. It must be quite a committee…and quite a policy. And apparently if Charlotte were ever beaten by a man, the esteemed owner would be okay with that man on his team…if he could play.”

Hansen’s reaction was rare and refreshing.

But not nearly as refreshing and rare as it would have been if no NFL team had offered Greg Hardy a job.

SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON

I was a member of SAE fraternity at Kent State a million years ago.

I say was because I never became a full fledged member through the required rush/pledge/initiation process. I was a social member.

I was already 21 when I got to Kent State and knew some guys in the fraternity and ended up spending most of my time with them during my two years there.

I became a social member for two reasons. Softball and football. I was pretty good in both and the fraternities took their intra-fraternity competition seriously.

I was taught the secret handshake and some of the long standing traditions but I was never told the secrets.

I really didn’t care about the secrets as long as they let me play centerfield, wide receiver and go to the parties.

I’ve thought about those secrets a lot this week after the video of the SAE racist song from Oklahoma went viral.

Was that song one of those secrets? I don’t know but I doubt it. It might be a song that had been passed down at some chapters in the South. But one thing is for sure, those kids on the bus in Oklahoma didn’t make it up last Thursday.

Oklahoma University had no right to expel the kids on the video. And no need to. They have every right to be as racist as they want to be as long as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s rights.

They will pay the price for singing that song for a long time without anybody having to violate their constitutional rights.

I still feel loyalty to SAE even though it was a million years ago that they bent the rules a little to allow me to enjoy the sports and the parties without having to go through the tough pledging process.

And I don’t think it’s a racist organization.

In fact, if you check out the Kent State chapter’s Facebook page, you will see several black members.

And something everybody should keep in mind. Every fraternity and sorority out there-white-black-Asian has its secrets and they would not want them to be made public.

That’s why they’re called secrets.

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN

Easy come. Easy go.

What was the bigger story this week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signing a five-year contract extension for something in the neighborhood of $125 million or Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds announcing his retirement and walking away from $30 or $40 million?

The story that affects the Steelers the most is obviously Roethlisberger’s signing but isn’t that a dog bites man story?

Who didn’t think that the Steelers would extend a 33-year old franchise quarterback’s contract? It was always a matter of when and for how much.

Worilds’ retirement at 27 on Tuesday isn’t exactly sending reverberations through the NFL because he’s a slightly better than average pass rusher.

But, in the middle of the money grab that is the National Football League, he was sure to get between $20 and $30 million as a free agent.

It’s rare for anybody to walk away from that kind of money. In sports or any other profession.
Worilds made close to $10 million last year and a total of around $13 million in his five years with the Steelers.

Maybe he woke up Tuesday morning thinking about mini-camp, training camp and a 16 week season and said, “Who needs this?”

It amazes me that more players don’t do it.

Especially football players.

If you play just about any other sport, at least 60 percent of your time is spent actually playing the game you love to play.

If you’re a football player, there are, counting exhibition games and possible post season games, somewhere between 16 and 24 times a year when you actually get to compete.

And in football, of course, you really only get to play half the game.

Baseball, hockey and basketball players don’t have 1/10th the number of meetings that football players have. Imagine how those must drag for an offensive lineman playing for a 3-8 team in December.

After you’ve already made $40 or $50 million, you’d have to really love football to not be tempted to turn in your playbook and head for the beach.

Pat Willis, an All-Pro linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers also walked away from a pile of money on Tuesday.
He’s 30 years old and could have made another $30 million on top of the $50 million he made in his eight-year career.

Missing 10 games last season, toe surgery and recurring problems with his feet made him decide to walk away knowing he can still walk without a limp, unlike so many former players he knows.

Roethlisberger says the negotiations were easy because it was a fair contract but he also had all the leverage. He could have pushed it to the limit and held out and even forced the Steelers to put a franchise tag on him next year.

Having already made over $100 million might have made the numbers less important to him. Quarterbacks have and always will make the big bucks and 33 isn’t nearly as old for a quarterback as it is for every other position on the field.

Jake Locker was the 8th pick in the NFL Draft in 2011. He played a total of 30 games at quarterback for the Tennessee Titans in four seasons and made $12.5 million.

He announced on Tuesday that he’s had enough. Twenty-six years old and his number one job just became remodeling his house in Ferndale, Washington, 16 miles from the Canadian border on the Pacific coast.

Not bad for a 26 year-old guy with a young wife and two kids.

Most players find it hard to walk away from the game because there’s so much money to be made.
More are starting to walk away because there’s so much they’ve already made.

With so many retired players still paying the physical price for extending their careers to the max, guys like Locker, Willis and Worilds look like the smart ones.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE ONE AND DONE. THAT IS THE QUESTION

Who do you like in the NCAA basketball tournament?

I’m going to go with the team that has nine McDonald’s All Americans on the roster and that, as of this writing, hadn’t lost a game yet.

That would be your Kentucky Wildcats under the tutelage of the John Wooden of the 21st century, John “One and Done” Calipari.

He makes no apologies for taking advantage of the NBA’s rule that requires a player to be at least 19 and a year removed from high school before being allowed in the league.

He has so much talent that he tries to run a two-platoon system of five man units to keep everybody happy.

And what does Calipari think the NBA should do to fix the one and done problem? Make them wait at least two years after high school before getting into the NBA, of course.

In his book called, (of course) “Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out” he wrote, “ I want us to do right by the players.”

He wants them to get closer to a degree before they leave for the NBA and the $10 million in guaranteed money that comes with being a first round pick.

Here’s what I don’t understand: How important is a college degree to someone who will make $10 or $12 million in the first three years on the job?

And if the degree is important, wouldn’t $10 million make it pretty easy to afford even today’s ridiculously high tuition costs?

So, isn’t Calipari wasting his time and insulting everybody’s intelligence by talking about the importance of an NBA player-in-waiting getting a degree?

Another question I ask every year without ever getting an answer is, why not let a kid declare for the draft, see where he is picked and then give him the option of returning to college to get that all important degree?

Ridiculous, you say.

How is it that 39 players in last years NCAA Frozen Four hockey championship were already NHL draft picks? There were 13 NHL draft picks in the Minnesota-Union College championship game. Some of those kids are pros today and some of them are back in college still playing NCAA hockey.

If a college basketball player is found as much as looking at an agent before he “graduates” he’s in danger of being sanctioned by the NCAA.

The lawyer for the NBA players’ union has his own unique take on the NBA’s age limit.

He blames it on race.
Okay, so maybe that’s not such a unique take.

Greg Kohlman told the Associated Press, “If they were white and hockey players they would be out there playing. If they were white and baseball players they would be out there playing.”

Kohlman got it exactly right except for the white part.
Being white has nothing to do with it. Being a hockey player or a baseball player (neither sport prevents black athletes from participating) has everything to do with it for one simple reason.

The NHL and Major League Baseball have their own farm systems. They don’t depend 100 percent on colleges to be their minor leagues like the NBA and the NFL.

You would think that a guy would have to be pretty smart to be the National Basketball Players Association general counsel, but Kohlman’s playing of the race card is about as moronic as it gets.

The NBA Players Association says it will push to return the eligibility age to 18 in the next collective bargaining agreement.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver agrees with Calipari. He’d like to see the age limit raised to 20.

Adam obviously shares Calipari’s interest in “Doing right by the players.”

Money and preserving a free minor league system have nothing to do with it.

FIGHT TEAM FIGHT. OR NOT

“Fight Golden Knights
Fight for the Green and the Gold
Fight to win this game.”

Those are the first three lines of my high school’s fight song. The nickname has since been changed to Rebels, but otherwise the lyrics have stayed the same.

I’m afraid to ask if it’s still called a fight song.

In a recent conversation with my grandson, he mentioned his middle school’s Pride Song.

That’s right. No more fight song. Fight is a violent word. It may give the kiddies the mistaken impression that fighting is okay.

I didn’t take the time to call all the schools in my area, so forgive me if I assume that this is a trend that has spread and will continue to spread beyond my grandson’s middle school.

I don’t know if it’s okay to have a pride song that includes the word “fight” but, I have a feeling it won’t be okay for too much longer.

Last April the student government at the University of Utah decided the school’s fight song, “Utah Man” was sexist, racist and just plain politically incorrect.

The words fan and men were substituted for man and men and the poor, unsuspecting fans who had shown up for Utah football games for 100 years, no longer had to fear being offended by the song.

I did some checking to see how many college “Pride Songs” may be in need of some major wussification before they offend the sensibilities of our future leaders.

I was shocked and distressed to find that most college fight songs include the word fight:

Pitt’s Pride Song might take some pretty creative editing. Guess what the first word in the song is. Yep.

“Fight on for dear old Pittsburgh.”
The chorus is :
“Da da da da da-da Pitt, fight!”
“Da da da da da-da , Pitt, fight.”

No wonder there’s so much violence at college football games.

And somebody better do something about the Naval Academy’s Pride Song. It’s treasonous.

“Stand Navy down the field,
And SINK the Army, SINK the grey!”
Is our Commander in Chief aware of this?

The Air Force Academy Pride Song is not only violent and pro-war, it’s sexist.

It hardly follows the lead of the University of Utah, whose Vice President of Student affairs, Barbara Snyder, said, “We didn’t want the fight song to be something that divided people. We wanted it to be something that pulled people together.”

“Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun.
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At ‘em boys, give ‘er the gun!”
And those Aggies at Texas A&M have a lot of work to do. Their pride song is called “The Aggie War Hymn.”

War? What about the children?

And the Aggies are so mean that they threaten their biggest rival in the middle of the song:

“Good-bye to Texas University
So long to the Orange and the White
Good luck to the dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys that show the real old fight
‘The eyes of Texas are upon you…’
That is the song they sing so well.
So good-bye to Texas University
We’re going to beat you all to —”

Now, that’s really mean. Can’t we all get along?

MLB WASTING TIME TRYING TO SAVE TIME

The Idiots Who Run Baseball strike again.

The new commissioner, Rob Manfred, Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark, John Scherholtz, Atlanta Braves President and Chairman of Major League Baseball’s Pace of Game and Instant Replay Committee and Attorney General Eric Holder announced changes on Friday that they hope will speed up games.

Oh, wait, how did Eric Holder get in there? My bad.

Surprisingly enough, the federal government stayed out of this one.
And how will the pace be sped up?

-The batters box rule, requiring that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batters box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs, will be enforced. My sources tell me that an earthquake that measures higher than 6.5 is one of the exceptions.

– Timers will measure the time between innings and pitching changes. Players will have to be ready two minutes and 25 seconds after the third out of an inning for local TV games and 2:45 for national TV.

Clocks will be installed in the ballpark and the IWRB will appoint someone to track compliance.

There are also changes to the procedures for challenging and possibly overturning umpires’ calls, including allowing the manager to challenge a call from the dugout instead of requiring him to approach the umpire.

Kind of ironic, don’t you think, that the IWRB wasted so much time in an effort to save your time?

How much time are we talking about saving here when all of these things are implemented? Ten minutes?

Does anybody really think that the average baseball fan is going to notice the difference between a game that last three hours and 22 minutes and one that lasts three hours and 12 minutes?

You want to shorten games enough that people will notice?

Try seven innings instead of nine.

That will never happen. Neither will two outs instead of three, or two strikes for an out and three balls for a walk. There is only one way to shorten games significantly and that’s by having fewer commercials.

The breaks between half-innings are at least three minutes if you count the commercial time and the time it takes for the first pitch to be thrown.

Cut that to 2 minutes combined with insisting that the first pitch is thrown as soon as the break is over and a 3 ½ hour game becomes a 3 hour and five minute game.

And imagine the return of the two and a half hour game.

Back in the stone age, games used to start at 8:05 because they were usually over by 10:30 and people could be home by 11:00. Now they have to start at seven to get the fans home that early.

Nobody believes for a second that the IWRB would reduce the time for commercials, which makes everything they say about their eagerness to shorten games as meaningless as one more batting glove adjustment.

The people in charge of all the major sports need to get creative with commercials if they want to shorten games.

Make each commercial spot 20 seconds instead of 30. Three 20s could actually bring in more money than two 30s.

Advertisers should be smart enough to realize that their commercials are more likely to be seen when they aren’t lost in a 2 and a half minute commercial break.

Put the law of supply and demand to work. Major sports events are quickly becoming the only place where advertisers can be sure that people are not using their DVRs to blow through the commercials.

By making fewer commercial spots available, the value of the spots would go up.

Who’s more creative than the people who write and produce radio and TV commercials? They could make 20 seconds work.

All the major sports leagues could do a better job of fitting short, creative, effective commercials into the small natural breaks in their games.

The way commercials are worked into NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL games are the same now as they were in 1975.

The IWRB went looking for time in all the wrong places.
And you know what really makes the IWRB’s exercise a waste of time?

There are no in-game penalties for breaking the new rules. They think fining players will be incentive enough to get them to comply.

How much of a fine will it take to get the attention of a pitcher who’s making $5000 to $10,000 per pitch?