Saturday, May 28, 2005NHL's Bad Gets Worst
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ ESPN will not pick up a $60-million option to retain NHL broadcasting rights for next season, the network said Saturday.
ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said the network would have further comment next week. The option deadline is Wednesday.
The decision was first reported by the Los Angeles Times and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.
While ESPN will not pick up the option on the deal it agreed to in May 2004, the longtime NHL broadcaster could try to retain the rights for less money.
Friday, May 27, 2005Openly Rooting for Phoenix...
I can't lie -- I wrote off the Suns initially. I called them a flash in the pan. I even said I'd vote for Shaq over Nash for the MVP. This was wrong. I need the Suns. The people need the Suns. Basketball fans have been denied a professional team that can score for too long.
Even better than that, the Suns force their opponents to score. Before this series was set, the scoreboards in San Antonio probably didn't have three digits on them.
There's no way the Spurs can keep up with the scoring pace they've set: 121 points in Game 1 and 111 points in Game 2. They've already hit their three-game total from the 2003 Finals against the Nets.
Yeah, yeah, it's pretty sad and I really do enjoy the way the Spurs have played. Still I said what all the people really want to say. We dig the offense. If the Spurs can run and win...WHY don't they run and win eh?
We Need the Suns to Rise [The Ledger]
Roy Williams Accepts Rules
Well now the horse collar tackle will cost him 15 yards. But Williams says he's cool with it and will make the necessary changes.
"I play by whatever rules the N.F.L. lays down," Williams said. "If there's a type of tackle that's legal, I'll use it. If it's not legal, I won't. It's as simple as that."Yeah, but the NFL says there's no conspiracy to keep Cowboys out of the Hall of Fame. Uh huh.
In having his name affixed to the decision, Williams joined an elite group of Dallas Cowboys players whose names are ascribed to an assortment of N.F.L. rules and regulations.
There is the Emmitt Smith rule, which makes it illegal for players to take off their helmets while on the field, as Smith was known for doing to celebrate a touchdown; the Deion Sanders rule, which prevents a team from circumventing salary caps by combining a high-signing bonus with a low-base salary; and the Mel Renfro rule, which permits an offensive player to touch the ball after it has touched a teammate without a defensive player's touching it in between.
Williams Will Play by the Rules [NYT]
Thursday, May 26, 2005NBA Looks Into Ads on Uniforms
The recent comments by NBA Commissioner David Stern mark the first time basketball's chief has said he'd consider the policy change, which is being pushed by some teams.
"I don't doubt it will eventually happen, but at a price that recognizes that value," Stern said. Stern said the league's teams lost money this season, though he wouldn't be specific.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and New Jersey Nets Chief Executive
Brett Yormark are among team executives who say it's time to stop treating uniforms as commercial-free zones.
"If it were up to me, they would already be there," Cuban, whose $87 million payroll this season was second to the New York Knicks, said in an e-mail interview.
I wonder if this is Stern's first move to assure a labor agreement? It's obviously the players won't go for less money or shorter contracts, so he's got to make ends meet. Right?
NBA Could Cash in on Uniform Prestige [Bloomberg]
Coaches Vote Goes Public
Members of the American Football Coaches Association will make their votes in the final coaches' poll public starting this season, executive director Grant Teaff said Thursday.
Teaff said most coaches did not want to release the votes because of the scrutiny it would bring, but decided to vote for the change to quell any "uncalled-for controversy." He said there are no circumstances where the group would allow their in-season voting to be made public.
"The in-season polls are just a barometer," Teaff said. "The final poll that determines the two teams that play in the national championship seems to be the one every wants to know about."
The coaches also are embracing the concept of a true championship game, which means that we are moving closer and closer to a playoff. Anyone think these guys are finally starting to get the message?
Well yes and no. Remember the coaches are obligated to the BCS for the final football poll so chances are they will all vote for the same team. Real brave guys.
Coaches to Make Vote in Final Football Poll Public [AP]
Who's on Team Christ?
Last season, DeBerry was asked to remove a banner from the locker room which displayed the "Competitor's Creed," including the lines "I am a Christian first and last ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."
"Fisher is fighting a heck of a battle over here at your academy (with) the U.S. government," Bowden was quoted as saying in the Gazette of Colorado Springs. "He's fighting a heck of a battle because he happens to be a Christian, and he wants his boys to be saved. I want my boys to be saved."
Bowden's comments came as a Pentagon task force investigates claims of religious intolerance at the academy, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
"We realize we have other religions with us," Bowden said. "The coach has a responsibility to these boys to try to influence their spiritual life, their physical life and their academic life. ... We know we're going to get challenged on it, but that's what we believe in. I ain't gonna back down."
Now I recognize this for what it is. In political terms its called "red meat", Bowden is pumping up his crowd and he's one of the best at it. Furthermore I think the state of Florida (where I live) is very lucky to have a coach like Bowden as a representative.
However, these comments were concerning to some, including columnist Ted Hoffman.
Bowden may not realize it, but he is a teacher. He is an instructor at Florida State University no less so than the woman who teaches applied calculus or the guy who teaches Mayan Dental Techniques. Our taxes help pay Bowden's salary.
Just imagine the uproar if another FSU professor -- call him Osama bin Bowden -- urged his young charges to praise Allah and bow toward Mecca because he "has a responsibility to these boys to try to influence their spiritual life" and he "ain't gonna back down."
It just ain't -- er, isn't the place of a teacher in a state university to force his faith on his students. Period. And that holds even if the teacher in question is a beloved fella who drawls charmingly and has brought home two national titles to the university.
You've wanted to save your boys, Coach? You should have benched Chris Rix.
That's a funny ending, and pretty accurate too. Believe it or not there are enough people in the Seminole nation who feel that Rix was a favorite of Bowden due in part to his public display of religion.
Which brings me to a question. There really isn't a right or wrong here, but how far does a football coach go? How does Bowden's faith affect his recruiting? Does a talented Muslim football player, who wants to play at FSU, get a recruiting visit from the coach?
There are others who say that Bowden's christianity is the reason that parents send their kids to FSU. This I can't fully buy into, I think his success and the national spotlight of the FSU football program has more to do with that. I don't think many of his athletes will be studying theology as undergrads, however all of them want to go to the NFL.
Hoffman was on an Atlanta sports radio today and accounted very well for himself. But I'll let the readers decide.
DeBarry, Bowden in Religious Battle [AP]
FSU's Bowden Crosses Line on Faith Issue [The Ledger]
Wednesday, May 25, 2005Never Too Early...
I wonder if Vince Young has learned how to throw a forward pass yet? Meanwhile I think the world will be in shock if Urban Meyer struggles at Florida like I expect him to. The WAC isn't the SEC.
On Schedule: Big Games of the Year [Sportsline]
Another Day, Another Lockout Threat...
Well the NFL has been running things long enough that Upshaw has decided he wants a bigger piece of the pie.
"To sit around and think that labor peace is going to just fall off a tree, they're reading the wrong tea leaves," said Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director. "It's time for them to wake up to the fact that we have a problem, and we need to get it fixed."
Upshaw said that, in the latest talks with the league, the union has been offered 57 percent of the league's designated gross revenues "when they admit to us under the old agreement we've been getting 59 to 60 percent. So why would we accept something less than what we're already getting? We're not going to do that."
Under the current labor agreement, a salary cap will be in effect for the last time for the 2006 season, and if there is no extension, the 2007 season would be uncapped, meaning teams could spend as much as they want to sign free agent players. Upshaw said if it came to an uncapped year, he would decertify the union, a move that essentially would mean all players would become free agents.
Wow. Imagine the mad rush if that happened. You'd truly see chaos on the market like never before. And each team would have a completely new identity.
The hope is that things won't go that far, but the league needs to be realistic. They have gotten over the players for a long time and while they got away with replacements in 1987, it won't fly in 2005.
Union Chief Warns NFL Owners [Washington Post]
Horse Collar Tackle Banned [USA Today]
Why Would Phil Jackson Return to L.A.
I'll give you two reasons.
And it's not Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom. Not much point to this post other than the throw out the occasional piece of eye candy and who better than the Lakers executive. Phil isn't doing too bad for himself.
But since I have the space, I think the lottery was fixed on the opposite end. With such a shallow pool of talent there was no reason to try to conjure conspiracy theories of the Knicks and/or Lakers moving up.
Instead the small markets got all the love. If I'm the Bucks, I would select Marvin Williams with the first pick. He's much more of a risk than Andrew Bogut, but Williams has the inside-out athletic game the Bucks need. Bogut will be a poor man's Arvydas Sabonis (in his Soviet days).
BTW, there are more photos of Miss Buss at Google Images but be warned, many are NSFW. [Link]
Tuesday, May 24, 2005Can't Spell Unhappy Pain in the Asses...
The 'U' or University of Miami has been a longtime factory for football players but these days they seem to have more pride in where they've been rather than where they are. This has led to a problem for Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, Gibbs hasn't been able to reach two of his top players -- Clinton Portis or Sean Taylor -- because they need to spend time in the 'U'.
But I wonder about the University of Miami players -- the guys from the place they proudly call "the U." They don't seem to be happy where they are. Portis was terribly unhappy with Gibbs's offense last season. Taylor is unhappy here now. Edgerrin James is threatening not to report to the Colts. Jeremy Shockey wasn't happy working out in New York with the Giants, the team that pays him. So he left and went back to Miami to work out with "the U" guys.
Look at Kellen Winslow Jr., a U guy who so famously said he'd make the Redskins regret not drafting him. Winslow's contract specifically forbids him from riding a motorcycle. But he rode one anyway, wrecked it, and now he's out for the whole season. The U guys are an island unto themselves. They appear to value each other more than they value the teams they play for. They play very well on Sundays. But they don't appear to be particularly responsive to their teams on other days.
It's almost like U guys enjoy getting into scrapes with management. It's almost like a contest to see if they can force the teams into subservience and publicly punk them. I wonder how long it'll take Santana Moss to find something wrong here.
Probably not too long. Miami has put out lots of pro football talent but they seem to be forgetting to build character and maturity.
What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate [Washington Post]
Rosenhaus and the Men Who Love Him...
And then there's Terrell Owens. Owens fired his longtime agent to hire Rosenhaus...so he could holdout.
Rosenhaus, an agent for 17 years, has been both admired and resented. Sports fans have sent him irate e-mail messages, calling him Darth Vader or Satan. Competing agents have accused him of stealing clients. Rosenhaus offers no apologies; he is determined to fight for his clients, regardless of the animosity it may cause.
"I worry about the P.R. hit that my clients take, but I never worry about the P.R. hit that I take," said Rosenhaus, who represents 91 players, the most of any N.F.L. agent. "I've been hired to do a job. I pride myself on being a dealmaker. Not a tough negotiator, not a hardliner, not someone who pounds the teams. I want to be viewed as a guy who can make a deal. Once I get what's fair, I pull the trigger."
Call Rosenhaus the modern-day Monte Hall. The only difference is that none of his clients are duds.
The Agent Nonplayers Love to Hate [NYT]
-- Philadelphia dumps the unpopular Jim O'Brien for one of its favorite sons, Maurice Cheeks. This was obviously where Philly wanted to go when the job was open during the offseason but he still had a job in Portland. Cheeks should be more successful than many of his predecessors there for no other reason than Allen Iverson has always been a fan. When Cheeks was an assistant to Larry Brown in Philly, Iverson often look for 'the answer' through the beloved point guard. [Philly Inquirer]
-- Knicks possibly looking to Bill Laimbeer. Makes sense for GM Isiah Thomas to give his former teammates a chance. And there is a history of success with former Pistons in new roles. Joe Dumars is the best GM in the league. Laimbeer has won a WNBA title with the Detroit Shock and John Salley has been banging Teri Hatcher. Laimbeer has said he won't leave Detroit until his daughter graduates high school. And when is that Bill? "In about a week." [Newsday]
-- Magic GM John Weisbrod (a.k.a. Sissybrod) resigned Monday, deciding that he wants to look for a job in the NHL. Maybe someone should break the news to him about the status of that league. "It's not in the best interests of the organization to have a GM running the basketball team that, in his heart, would trade three NBA championships for one Stanley Cup." So why was he managing an NBA team in the first place? [The Ledger]
-- Speaking of Orlando, they have decided to revisit their past and hire Brian Hill. Hill coached the Magic from 1993-1997 and led the team to an NBA Finals in 1995. [AP]
-- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar teaches the importance of acknowledging smack to aspiring Chinese ballplayers. You can insert your own joke there. [China Daily]
Monday, May 23, 2005Who Is Paula Creamer?
Remember this face.
She is a golf prodigy.
She is the second youngest winner of an LPGA tour event.
She is the real deal.
She will make women's golf worth watching.
She is going to graduation from high school this week.
She is going to challenge Annika right now.
She is better than Michelle Wie, much better.
She is going to be the biggest thing in women's sports for the next decade.
Mark my words. I covered her in a regional tour qualifier and she dominated. 8 months later she's winning on the national tour.
Creamer's First LPGA Victory Proves Youth Isn't Wasted [USA Today]
Teenager Cashes in Before She Graduates [AP]
The Price Is Right?
Bain and Game Plan LLC, a Boston-based firm that arranges the sale of professional sports teams, in March made a $3.5 billion offer for the league, which still hasn't resolved a labor dispute with players that forced it to cancel its season. The new offer, which topped $4 billion, was made yesterday, said the people, who asked not to be identified.
"We haven't given up, that's for sure,'' Bob Caporale, Game Plan's chairman, said in a telephone interview. He declined to confirm that a revised offer was submitted to the league.
League spokesman Frank Brown said, "I will not confirm any aspect of what you're reporting.''
Now while it'll take 30 owners to approve this and I don't think it'll happen, I do believe that the price isn't that far off. Let's be real, 23 owners were ready to take this deal when the group offer a little over 3 billion. There are a few stickler owners, which hockey can easily do without, who want to do nothing more than be hockey owners. They don't care about the team or the negative press, they just want something to have and toy with.
John Moag, chief executive of Baltimore-based investment banking firm Moag & Co., said the new offer won't be enough to convince owners to sell.
"It remains highly unlikely,'' Moag said in an interview. "The owners didn't buy these teams to make a killing. They bought them to enjoy and hold onto.''
And therein lies the problem. The owners are enjoying a team that no one can watch.
Bain Increases Bid for NHL [Bloomberg]
There's no guarantees in this series. The Spurs played Phoenix's style but at their own pace. They let Amare run wild but contained him at the same time. When the Suns left someone unguarded, the Spurs made them play. It was close to perfect.
Eschewing their outdated reputation as a slug-it-out, half-court team, the Spurs played long stretches at Phoenix's frenetic pace, pushing the ball whenever the opportunity presented itself. When the Suns went small, the Spurs downsized as well.
"If that's what it takes, that's what we're going to have to do," Popovich said. "We're a pretty flexible team going between big and small because we've done it against so many teams all year. We're willing to be the chameleon."
And now what they have to do is win Game 2 on Tuesday and prove who's best in the West.
Spurs Wrest Game 1 From Suns [San Antonio Express]
Suns Get Wake-Up Call [Arizona Republic]
Spur of the Moment [Homepage]
Sunday, May 22, 2005Play-In Would be Wild?
I actually love the wild-card system. It makes sense considering all the regular-season games that a few more teams should enjoy the playoffs.
But in Don McKee's baseball notebook, he thinks that the wild-card teams have it easy, almost too easy and there's very little reward in winning the division.
Nothing against Anaheim, Florida or the sainted Red Sox, but those of us who still are hardball purists find this slightly off-putting.
The wild card is a good idea. It keeps about a dozen cities thinking baseball through the media uproar that accompanies the onset of football season.
But obviously, the reward for winning the division is far too small. Something needs to be done to roughen the road for the wild-card teams and smooth the path for the suddenly pitiable Yankees and Braves.
The best idea out there is to have the best two runners-up in each league meet in a one-game "play-in."
This idea (advanced on numerous fronts the last two years) would impose a steep penalty on the wild-card teams and thus reward the divisional winners.
Teams almost certainly would want to avoid the play-in game, to avoid the drain on their pitching staffs, and that would create real pennant races through the final week of the season.
It's an interesting concept, but again. I don't feel like baseball is a single-elimination type of sport. It's a game that rewards adjustments and changes over a period of time.
October Baseball Needs Play-In [Philly Inquirer]
Plastchke On the Ping
And I love the softball world series, I also have a major crush on Cat Osterman so that's probably half the reason. And the Olympic softball team whips tons of ass.
However in my search for columns I ran across an interesting one by Bill Plastchke of the L.A. Times. It's about the dwindling number of minorities in college baseball. Most of the best latin players go straight to the league and most of the best black players....play something else apparently.
Nearly 60 years after Jackie Robinson painfully integrated major league baseball, his collegiate proteges often feel just as alone.
With the nationally televised NCAA tournament beginning in two weeks, the lack of diversity will again be impossible to hide under the oversized batting helmets and home-plate hugs.
From March Madness to June Sameness.
Of 11 Division I baseball programs in Southern California, there are only 10 African Americans.That's less than one per team, and six teams have none, including former national champion USC.
"People see these numbers and are surprised," said Richard Lapchick, president of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport. "But this decline has been happening over years."
I was actually on a panel in 2003 about this decline (It was at about 7% in 2003 and a little under 5% now). I actually predicted there will be less than 100 total in the nation by 2010 because most of the predominately black colleges in the south have started recruiting latino players to field competitive teams.
The easy answer to give is money. But that's not the correct answer. Sports and ethnicity go in trends. The increasing latin population in baseball is because many of the Latin American sports heroes are baseball players. There has been a study increase of blacks playing gold due to the emergence of Tiger Woods, and I can say that golf is more expensive of a game to practice than baseball. There's been a study increase in white kids doing the "extreme sports" thanks to guys like Tony Hawk and Dave Mirra.
Children who participate in sports generally follow the trend of the guys they enjoy watching. So its a downward trend right now. It'll probably move up later in next decade once a black player makes serious waves in Major League baseball.
But this is an excellent column.
Andrews Is in the Minority on College Baseball Fields [LA Times]
Breaking Down the Unit
So everyone wants to know what's wrong with Randy Johnson. Now I'm not pitching expert, but I saw a couple of things that would bring up a red flag for me.
- He's 41 -- That's old for a pitcher or a baseball player in general (save Julio Franco)
- He's not physically conditioned -- Now he's physically imposing, but unlike a Roger Clemens, he's not in great condition. He's got tons of nagging injuries and he just can't hold up for more than 70% of the season.
- He's getting rattled -- Johnson is the classic bully. He hates getting hit and when he does get hit, he unravels. As the Mets collected single after single and made Johnson work in each inning, you could see the unit seething. But so what? Since when did having an ugly stare get someone out?
- He's lost velocity -- He'll hit 95 on the gun three times a game, everything else is between 91-93 so I think he's going to have to start getting better control of his other pitches.
Randy Johnson is exactly what he's going to be -- A very good pitcher on the decline. And this was one of those areas where George Steinbrenner let his emotions ruin his judgment. He envisioned the 31-year-old Randy Johnson and got the 41-year-old. Again he's good enough to win 15 games, but he's not going to lead a staff anymore.
Johnson Sounds Like a Man Who's Lost It [Newsday]
Intimidation Factor Eludes Johnson [NYT]