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THE ENEMY WAS WEARING ORANGE

Sports fans can be idiots.

This is nothing new but they continue to go where no fan has gone before.

Take Tony Williams, for example.

He intercepted a pass on Sunday at the Superdome (or whatever it’s called now) in New Orleans during the Saints game with the Cincinnati Bengals. Tony doesn’t play for the Saints or the Bengals. He’s a 70-year old Saints fan who intercepted a pass intended for a Bengals, fan who was sitting next to him in the end zone seats.

She (that’s right, SHE) was wearing a Bengals jersey. Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham scored a touchdown and when he spotted Christa Barrett’s orange jersey, he went to the back of the end zone and flipped the ball to her.

Williams jumped in front of her and snatched the ball away.

When Barrett smiled and asked him for the ball, Williams shook his head no. Then she begged him to give her the ball that was intended for her and Williams still said no.

There has been way too much violence in stadiums these days, much of it precipitated by one moron in his favorite player’s jersey picking a fight with another moron wearing the jersey of a player from the opposing team. And that really needs to stop.

But this was one time when it would be hard to blame Jarrett for a violent response.

There were several men seated around Jarrett and Williams and not one of them stood up for Jarrett and demanded that Williams give the ball back.

Apparently, chivalry really is dead.

Of course, the video of the incident went viral and Williams was trashed and ridiculed around the world, but it didn’t seem to phase him. He said he wanted the ball for his grand baby.

And won’t his grandbaby be proud when 20 years from now, the video of his grandfather shamelessly stealing a ball from a woman is still out there?

This is no small thing.

It’s another example of just how far sports fandom has fallen, but, more than that, it’s a prime example of where the human race is headed.

There was a time when a man would be not only ashamed to do what Williams did, he would be afraid of what other men in the vicinity might do to him if he didn‘t give the ball back.

He still has the ball.

And this 70-year old man still thinks he did the right thing. I hope he lives long enough to explain how it was the right thing to do to his grandson.

You would think that any adult working at a major TV network would condemn and/or ridicule Williams for what he did, but 34-year old Mike Smith, co-host of ESPN’s His-Hers said, “I’m not gonna sit up here and judge Mr. Williams for being a true fan.

“You’re a Saints fan and you got a Bengals fan trying to celebrate a touchdown and getting a souvenir ball at your home field. This is called creating a hostile environment. So, yes I would allow it.”

“She put on that jersey…you take on that responsibility of being a fan, you don’t get no kind of double standard involved here. No. You don’t get the ball. Not next to me.”

This is a grown man, working for the world’s number one sports network as a commentator and he’s telling fans that they have a right to “protect their house.”

When Smith’s co-host, Jemele Hill, asked him about chivalry, Smith said, “Hey, man, this ain’t a game here. All’s fair. This is war. You’re in the Superdome, you’re a fan. You’re a grown woman, you got a (Bengals) jersey on, you’re the enemy. Simple as that. She’s a fan, She’s the enemy. You are not there to make friends with her. You’re not there to watch her enjoy her stay.”

Once again, this is not a drunken fan in a sports bar. It’s a network commentator saying that a person rooting for the visiting team in a stadium is the “enemy.”

He said it with a straight face.

Is this the prevailing attitude among sports fans in 2014?

If so, how pathetic is that?

TROUBLE IN TALAHASSEE

Florida State University has another chance to make its alumni proud.

The College Football Playoff Rankings had their alma mater ranked third in the country going into this weekend. That means, if the season ended today, FSU would be in position to defend its Mythical National Championship as one of the final four teams in college football’s new format for determining the Mythical National Champion.

If the overall integrity and reputation of Florida State University figures into the average alum’s sense of pride, he or she should stay away from the New York Times.

It was the Times’ investigation into the sexual assault allegations against FSU quarterback Jameis Winston last year that exposed a slimy association between the football team’s athletic department, booster club and local law enforcement.

The Times concluded that the Tallahassee Police Department hampered the investigation and only got serious about it when the media started asking questions.

Winston was never charged with sexual assault but, under federal government rules covered by Title IX, FSU was required to do it’s own investigation.

A hearing had been scheduled for November 17th but was delayed until December 1st, two days after Florida State’s last regular season football game.

The Times’ reporting uncovered multiple examples of FSU players getting a pass from the local cops. The most recent example was the case of cornerback P.J. Williams, the Most Valuable Defensive Player in last seasons Mythical National Championship game.

He, “Drove his car into the path of a teenager returning home from a job a the Olive Garden.”

Both cars were totaled and Williams and his two passengers ran from the scene. Hit and run, right?

Maybe. But apparently not if you are an important FSU football player. The Times investigation found that Williams was driving with a suspended license and was given a break by the local cops, who reduced what should have been a criminal act to two traffic tickets.

The cops said that they didn’t charge Williams with hit and run because he returned to the scene 20 minutes after the accident. The Times found that others who returned to the scene of less serious accidents had been charged with hit and run violations.

Of course, they didn’t play football for Florida State.

The local cops make lots of extra money working overtime during Florida State football games and they’re paid directly by the boosters.

Good FSU football teams are good business for just about everybody in Tallahassee.

Last January, the cops answered a 911 call about a man beating a woman who was holding a baby. When they arrived on the scene, the man and the woman were inside and the woman said everything was okay. Instead of getting written statements from witnesses and the possible victim, which they are legally bound to do, the cops told their sergeant that it was an FSU football player and the sergeant who, according to the Times is “a Florida State University sports fan, signed off on it and the complaint was filed away as ‘unfounded’.”

Tallahassee is a long way from New York City but the New York Times has shown an interest in the corruption at Florida State that doesn’t seem to have been matched by any other major media outlets, including Florida media.

For the Times, it’s been like shooting fish in a barrel.

There’s the story of 13 players, including Winston, who were involved in multiple BB/pellet gun shootouts that resulted in thousands of dollars in damages the last two years.

Three FSU players accused of domestic violence in the last two years.

In June, wide receiver Jesus Wilson plead guilty to stealing a scooter and crashing it. He was originally charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle but was able to plead down to a misdemeanor. The owner of the scooter told the Times that the arresting officer told him that he didn’t want to ruin Wilson’s career by arresting him.

And who cares, anyway?

We’re talking possible back-to-back Mythical National Championships here.

Go ‘Noles.

ADS ON UNIFORMS! WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

Is our country doomed?

Not because of anything that happened on Tuesday but because of what was unveiled on Friday in Westchester, New York. The Westchester Knicks, D League affiliate of the New York Knicks, unveiled their new jerseys and they include advertising.

You can bet that there are fans and even some in the media who are hiding under their beds in fear of laying their eyes upon an NBA jersey that has been contaminated by an ad.

They should get used to the idea because it’s only a matter of time before NBA players become the 2014 version of the sandwich board. The NBA started experimenting with jersey ads during the 2012 D-League playoffs and no one died or became seriously ill.

The plan was to test it with the developmental league teams to see if fans could handle it. Apparently the rioting was kept to a minimum and now jersey ads are part of D-League uniforms and headed to an NBA team near you very soon.

Seriously, what’s the big deal?

Every pro league depends on advertising for its very existence.
Players in the four major leagues aren’t making mega-millions because of ticket sales. The money comes from TV and we all know where TV’s money comes from.

Minor league baseball and hockey teams couldn’t exist without in-stadium and radio advertising.
What’s so sacred about a uniform anyway?

Teams change them all the time because they know fans are dumb enough to believe that they have to be wearing the latest version of their team’s jersey if they want to be really cool.

There was a time when a man wearing a jersey wasn’t cool at all, but that‘s another story.

Now, maybe the grown men who wear the replica jerseys of their favorite players can get a cut of the advertising money.
Or maybe the teams can give their customers a break on the price of the jerseys if they come with an ad.

Sure they can.

There was a time when ads on the outfield walls were perfectly okay in Major League ballparks. When the new cookie cutter, all purpose stadiums started popping up all over North America in the late sixties and early seventies, it was considered bad taste, if not sacrilegious to defame a wall with advertising.

Then; around the turn of this century, came the new stadiums that were paid for by the taxpayers and named after an advertiser.
It’s not only Heinz Field in Pittsburgh where the scoreboard video screen shows ketchup pouring out of a giant Heinz Ketchup bottle every time the home team enters the red zone.

It happens all over the NFL.

You would have to be pretty old to remember when a pitching change was not brought to you by Pennzoil, Pampers, a local bank or some other advertiser.

Believe it or not, there was a time when the power play in a hockey broadcast was not brought to you by anybody. It used to be just a power play.

So, let’s nip the outrage in the Bud – sorry, I mean bud.

(Hey, maybe I’m on to something. There’s money to be made here. The next sentence is brought to you by ___YOUR AD HERE_______.)
Get used to the idea that, before long, your favorite players in your favorite sports are going to be running, jumping, diving throwing, living billboards.

It’s America. You’ll get used to it.

\ It kind of reminds me of what I think is still the best in-stadium ad in sports history. And its message applies here.

The Atlanta Braves put a gigantic ad on the tarp that was unrolled to cover the field during rain outs at Fulton County Stadium.

It was a picture of a gigantic box of Morton’s Salt with the words, “When it rains, it pours.”

WORLD SERIES TANKS AGAIN

As long as people stop dying, the World Series will do just fine.

The average age of the this year’s World Series viewer was 54. Five years ago the average age was 49. See where this is going?
At this rate, in 25 years, the average age of a World Series viewer will be right around 80.

That’s not good for Major League Baseball.

Back in 1980, the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the Philadelphia Phillies was watched by an average of about 50 million people.

Game 7 Wednesday night between the Royals and the San Francisco Giants drew 23.5 million viewers. The first six games averaged about 12.5 million and, if there had been no Game 7 to pump up the final numbers, it would have been the lowest rated World Series ever.

Apologists for Major League Baseball will tell you that it’s unfair to compare TV ratings when people have 150 channels from which to choose to ratings from a time when their were less than 10 choices for most people.

That argument might be valid if not for the NBA’s ratings.

Back in 1980, the Los Angeles Lakers of Jabbar and Magic played the Philadelphia 76ers of Dr. J and Julius Dawkins. The games were televised by CBS. You know how many people saw it on live TV.
None.
It was on taped delay.

The 2014 NBA Finals on NBC averaged 15.5 million viewers, including 22.4 million for Game 5, when the Spurs clinched the series.

There was a time when the World Series was the most anticipated, most watched, most talked about sports event of the year. And that was when it was played in the afternoon.

Now MLB and Fox Network have to avoid scheduling games on Monday and Thursday nights to avoid getting smoked in the ratings by an NFL regular season game.

The Sunday Night Football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos had two times the audience of Games 1 and 2 of this year’s World Series.

And, as the New York Times pointed out, “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The Big Bang Theory” had more viewers, So did “The Walking Dead,” a cable show about zombies.

When baseball was king, kids used to get in trouble for listening to the World Series on their transistor radios during school and they would hustle home in hopes of catching an inning or two on TV.

How many kids do you think were watching Game 7 Wednesday night? How many kids even knew it was on?

Kids 6-16 made up less than four percent of the World Series audience this year and that number is inflated by the huge number of kids in Kansas City who got special permission from their parents to stay up late.
The 54-year old average viewer who tuned into this year’s World Series is old enough to remember when people watched or listened to the games at work and the local drug stores and barber shops knew it was good business to have a TV turned on for their customers who considered it can’t miss TV.

Nobody should be feeling sorry for anybody associated with Major League Baseball. The local TV ratings during the regular season are huge and the ball parks are filled. The owners and players are making more money than they’ve ever made before.

And they’ll continue to make obscene amounts of money in the future. How far into the future is a different story.

Thirty years from now, those 54 year-olds will be 84 and telling their grandkids about the good ol’ days when the World Series really mattered.

FINDING RELIGION IN THE END ZONE

Scoring a touchdown in the NFL can be a religious experience.

There was quite a bit of justifiable outrage when Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for falling to his knees in prayer after returning an interception for a touchdown Monday night. The league issued an apology and said there should not be a flag for a “Player who goes to the ground as part of a religious expression.”

Sounds like a sensible approach.

Unless you want to get technical about religious expression.
Why couldn’t a player say that his end zone dance was a form of religious expression? Does the NFL have a list of acceptable religions, or could players make them up as they go along?

Ridiculous? Of course it is, but the official who threw the flag Monday night was going by the letter of the law.

This zero tolerance insanity is obviously a result of touchdown celebrations that had gotten out of hand for too long.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was penalized 15 yards for doing a belly flop after scoring a touchdown in the Steelers’ embarrassing, penalty-infested loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs Sunday.

His was one of many amazingly stupid penalties taken by the Steelers and, at his Tuesday press conference, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Brown had scored enough NFL touchdowns that it should be routine for him.

And he said it would be nice if Brown just flipped the ball to the official.

Brown was asked about it on his local radio show and he said, “I just like to have fun. There’s a lot of work and energy that goes into scoring a touchdown.”

Brown, of course, needs to grow up. He’s obviously unaware that the No Fun League’s zero tolerance policy on touchdown celebrations is in place.

Another guy named Brown, first name Jim, has been trying to convince black players, who are almost expected to dance – an obvious example of the soft bigotry of low expectations if there ever was one – that they are feeding a negative stereotype with every performance.

Jim Brown is almost universally considered the best NFL player ever and despite playing only nine seasons, when the seasons were 12 and 14 games long, is 10th on the all time touchdown list.

So, he knows all about arriving in the end zone.
And he cringes when he sees current players “having fun” when they get there.

“(It’s) the buffoonery, The things we fought to get away: the stereotypical gestures. The rolling of the eyes, the dancing, and all the Walt Disney stereotypical racial disgraces.”

“You wonder how these individuals can be so stupid not to understand how the general public is looking at them…If you study history, you don’t want to emulate the things that were degrading and humiliating.”

“The humiliation was real. Now, guys are playing the yes-a-boss slave. That’s embarrassing to me. To think in this day and age, these young men would be out there shaking their butts and not knowing much of anything else. Not understanding the dignity of man and how to play a game and play it hard and let that speak for itself.”

I wonder how many current NFL players have ever heard Jim Brown speak on the subject.

For that matter, I wonder how many know who Jim Brown is.

The solution is simple. When you score a touchdown, spike the ball or , better yet, give it to the referee. Say your prayers on the sideline.

God and/or Allah will find you.

DEREK JETER AND JUST WATCHING THE GAME

In case you missed it, Derek Jeter is retiring.

You would have to have been in Yemen for the last six months to not be aware of the six-month retirement party that Major League Baseball threw for Jeter, who is finishing up his 20th year with the New York Yankees.

Why is there so much love for Jeter?

He’s a Yankee and for millions of people in North America, that is reason enough to hate him.
He had a great career but he’s not going to be any Top 25 Players of All Time lists.

Maybe he’s beloved by fans and the media because he’s a throwback. Twenty years in the number one media market in the world and the worst you can say about him is that he dated some really, really good looking women.

No ugly divorces.(He was never married.)
No sexual assaults.
No steroids.

He’s humble and polite, which sets him apart from way too many stars in too many sports. Remember Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks using his live, on-the-field Super Bowl post game interview to pound his chest, look into the camera and declare himself the best cornerback in the world?

That got him on Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

In 2014, over the top is the way to go.

I wrote a book called “Just Watch The Game” a good portion of which is dedicated to pointing out how, in sports today, the game seems to get lost in the surrounding hype and stupidity.

Most fans seem to have become fans of being fans.

Tailgaters show up at 6 a.m. for games that start at 1 p.m.

You’re no longer a Steelers fan or a Packers fan. You’re a member of Steelers or Packers “Nation.”

Grown men dress like boys, wearing the authentic game jersey of their heroes, who are often young enough to be their sons.

That, of course, leads to fights, in which grown men wearing opposing jerseys, beat themselves within an inch of their lives.

There was a lovely scene at last Sunday’s Cardinals-49ers game in Phoenix, when two guys wearing 49ers jerseys were set upon by decked out Cardinals fans. Maybe you’ve seen the video of them tumbling down the blood-stained, concrete stairs.

Jeter’s predecessors on the great Yankees teams of the ‘50s and ‘60s were hated by people in every city they visited. But fans back then seemed to have some perspective, not to mention a dash of maturity.

They were there, first and foremost, to just watch the game.

They came dressed as regular human beings and didn’t feel obligated to get liquored up for five hours before the first pitch and go looking for someone wearing a Yankees cap to beat up.
Of course, the farewell party for Jeter was over the top, but you can’t blame him for that. It’s just the world we live in.

That’s why the Pirates pack goggles to wear during the champagne spraying celebration for clinching a wild card spot.

Jeter’s a throwback to the time when a team had to, you know, win something before having a champagne party.

But why not break out the bubbly and cheapen every pennant- winning celebration that preceded you when the team can sell the bottles for $50?

That’s what the empty bottles will be selling for next week. And they will be authenticated by Major League Baseball.

If that’s a little too pricey for you, how about a cork for 15 bucks?

This is nothing new. Amazon has an empty champagne bottle left over from the Yankees’ 2010 ALDS celebration available for only $160. If you want the cork, you’re on your own.

But don’t let anybody tell you that fans are taking this stuff too seriously.

Just watch the game, indeed.

SPORTS ADMINISTRATORS NEED TO PUT UP OR SHUT UP

Florida State’s half-assed attempt at punishing Jameis Wintston is all you need to know.

You remember Jameis, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, who beat the rap on a sexual assault accusation. The prosecutor, William N. Meggs, said that, because of a sloppy police investigation, he didn’t have enough evidence to prove the alleged victim had been raped.

The New York Times did some digging around and determined that, “There was no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.”

“The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser.”

The consensus among most observers is that Winston got the star quarterback of the possible National Championship winner treatment.

Fast forward to Tuesday and Winston is standing on a table in the Florida State student union yelling – well, never mind what he was yelling. It’s a vulgar phrase that shouldn’t be written here and it’s definitely not something that someone recently accused of sexual assault should be saying out loud in a public place.

For that, Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher “suspended” Winston for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson.

Late Friday night somebody at FSU wised up and doubled the penalty and said Winston would be benched for the entire game,

One more big opportunity missed by a big time college coach.
Fisher had the chance to send an obviously well-needed message to Winston and a powerful message to the rest of his team.

He could have – should have – suspended Winston for at least three games. It’s these kinds of missed opportunities that lead to the problems that the NFL has been having the last few weeks.

Little or no accountability.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgerson was told by Morgantown police Wednesday that they had a nightclub surveillance video of his best defensive player, cornerback Daryl Worley, putting both his hands on a woman’s throat and throwing her to the ground.

Worley was charged with battery and suspended indefinitely, which apparently means more than half a game.

Holgerson should have kicked Worley off the team.
For good.
No second chance.

And when WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck saw that Holgerson wasn’t willing to get rid of him, he should have stepped in and done it himself. And when WVU President Gordon Gee saw that Luck wasn’t willing to do the right thing, he should have kicked Worley out.

The time for second chances is over.
Big time college and professional athletes have obviously not been getting the messages that have (or haven’t) been sent to them.

Token punishments and empty threats aren’t working anymore if they ever did.

And when a player is kicked off for committing a violent crime, other teams need to avoid the temptation to give him that second chance no matter how good he may be.

It’s time for college coaches and administrators to start taking preemptive action. When a high school kid proves he can’t stay out of trouble or do college work, don’t offer him a scholarship.

Or shut up about how you’re trying to clean up college sports.

Pro teams should do what the Philadelphia Eagles did with their All-Pro wide receiver Desean Jackson this Summer after reports surfaced that he was hanging out with gang members in Los Angeles, including two who were suspected of murder.

They released him.

It produced a good bit of whining among the national sports media about how there was no real proof and Jackson hadn’t committed any crimes.

That’s exactly the point. That’s what preemptive means. Nip it in the bud. Don’t draft college players who have criminal pasts or criminal friends.

NFL owners, like the Ravens’ Steve Bisciotti, who, according to ESPN, knew exactly what Ray Rice did in the elevator that night, have to stop hiding behind the commissioner and pushing for leniency and start doing the right thing.

Or just shut up.