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Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Never Hurt?   Originally published on Turfsports.net 4-12-07

  

For what seems like the umpteenth time, someone has slurred and made light of individuals based on their appearance.  This time it was legendary Radio host/personality Don Imus; whose comments about the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball team have led to a firestorm of criticism; many calling for his ouster from WFAN Radio in New York and MSNBC who carries his show live on TV.  For his part, Imus has apologized and will meet with the team.  He has even gone so far as to appear on Reverend Al Sharpton’s radio program to discuss the issue and apologize further. 

 

Imus is the original “shock jock”…he invented the genre and still is its standard bearer.  Those who have listened to Imus over the past 30 years know full well that this is hardly the first time he has used racially charged language on his program.  In fact, I believe he is not only getting punished/pillared for what he said about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team “Nappy Headed Ho’s”, but he is being held accountable for his body of work that has included many slurs and negative connotations about people of color on his airwaves. 

 

As a “free speech” advocate, I do feel Imus or anyone has the right to say what they want, as long as it does not endanger others (the old “you cannot yell fire in theater” when there isn’t one, causing a panic and potentially injuring people attempting to escape).  But in this case there is injury, and unlike the title of this piece and what we have been told by our elders, words do hurt.

 

We have become a much more politically correct society over the past 15-20 years, and though it does stifle some speech, it also does make us more wary of how we use our words, which is a good thing.  For too long we have been cavalier with words like “ho”, bitch, nigger, and a plethora of other words and phrases, some found in George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Word” bit.

 

This goes for ALL communities and people.  People of Color are just as guilty using epitaphs when describing there own and others…maybe the difference lies in that (and I have heard this said by prominent people in the African American community) people of color use slur words as a way to take the power back from Whites who denigrated Blacks with those words in the past.  I am not sure I completely agree, but I do believe, like in any family or community it is up to that community to police their own, and okay for them to be critical of each other.  But if you are not a part of that community, you do not have that same right. The use of the word nigger is a prime example: Many African Americans use that word in their language to describe each other.  But Caucasians do not have that same right to use it to describe Blacks.  

 

If anything, what this situation does is get us back to the table of discussion about language: Its use and impact, and also racism and ignorance.   Should anyone of any creed use derogatory words to describe another?  The simple answer is no, and though we may agree, it is not as simple as that, based on the culture of racism that still exists in this country; we do not live in a vacuum.  People smarter than I from the African American community, the various Women’s organizations, and groups from the Caucasian perspective will have their opportunity to address the issue and come up with some form of understanding.

 

For now, Don Imus will have two weeks to contemplate his words and choice to use them.  A few advertisers on his radio program have already withdrawn their sponsorship, and some guests have decided not appear on his show…they are exercising their “free speech” in doing so.  But keep in mind “free speech” is not always free, there is a cost to those who say what they say, and to those who are affected by the words.

 

I believe we all have the right to say and express ourselves without censorship; and as long as we want to have the right to say what we want, and can live with the consequences of our words, then free expression can continue to be everyone’s right.

The most beautiful part about free speech is that it separates the intelligent from the ignorant.  If for no other reason why we should not damper people’s words, it allows us to really see inside what others think and feel.  Free speech reveals the true character of speaker. 

 

 

DON’T GET CAUGHT Originally published on DSSOne.com July 2011

While in college, playing football, I was subject to “random” drug tests.  During the 1988 season there were four random tests that required players to submit samples (urinate in a cup…with someone watching) to make sure the players were not (well in one part using someone else’s urine) taking steroids.  Steroids were at the time the “drug of choice”, though tests also screened for speed and other recreational drug (though pot I do not think would give one an advantage on the field!) What I found funny about the process personally, was that I was somehow selected “randomly” for three of the four tests!  I did come back to campus, bigger, faster, and stronger that year, but it was due to my hard work, and more accurately, a growth spurt which as a “late bloomer” finally hit between my 20th and 21st birthday.  Coaches were I think suspect as to how I could within 3-4 months be 2+ inches taller, 15lbs heavier, shave off a tenth of second on my 40 yard dash time, and bench press 75lbs more.  So, I was “selected” (randomly I guess!) to submit my pee for analysis.  I came back clean and clear each test.  I still didn’t play much, as my skills, though competent, were not stellar…no amount of PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs) substitutes for innate ability and talent, but again PED’s are not meant to do that, they’re meant to give an “edge” to those with abilities already in ample supply.  I know personally that there were some guys “juicing”…the tell tale signs were there, dramatic change in size, strength, appearance, and attitude…”Roid Rage” is very real.  Our D-line coach; older and crotchety but well liked, knew as well…but his take was different “If any of you all are taking steroids, you sure ain’t takin’ them right!” 

He was right; we finished 1-10 that season.

 

Since then, PED’s have become more prevalent, and much more sophisticated.  They are much harder to detect with testing…some say they are safer then they were 20+ years ago, but others say they’re as unsafe now, as ever.

But what is the real hang up with PED’s? 

 

 

It is not the health risks, as more athletes seem to take some form of supplements; legal, banned, or otherwise, today then in the past. 

It appears it is not for the legal or moral issues; as the governing bodies and/or pro sports leagues and their unions are the first to come out against certain drug tests to “protect” its member athletes.  And it doesn’t appear to be a concern of the leagues themselves as they have until recently, turned a blind eye to the issue, because fans want to see big time home runs, big time hits and tackles, and very fast and strong people compete for our country internationally.

 

Is using PED’s cheating?  I guess if some are using to gain an edge, and others are not, then to some degree.  But was Lester Hayes cheating by using “Stick em”?  (It was eventually banned).  Football players use gloves to get a better grip to catch a football, baseball players use pine tar to get a better handle on a bat, scratch the back line of the batters box out to get a bigger area to hit from…pitchers mark up and scuff the baseball to get different effects from it, does that run afoul of the spirit of the rules?  The aforementioned likely do not lead to health issues, but again health and safety (until recently) in pro sports regarding PED’s was not a concern by MLB, or the NFL…all they saw (and wanted to see) was full stadiums, huge TV ratings, and revenues off the charts.

 

MLB has now said they will test for drugs like HGH and others similar; but the players union has stepped in to prevent some of these tests, saying they infringe on “privacy” in regard to how the tests are administered.  It appears PED’s are not the issue, but the test to find out if players are using PED’s is…the irony!

 

Baseball, a sport who values it records and its “unwritten” codes and rules, more than any other, is also the sport whose history is the most rife with some of the greatest cheats and scandals of all of sports…the hypocrisy is deafening, but not much worse then the NFL, Track and Field, and the other major sports around the world.

 

We want to “win at all costs”…even if that costs us our dignity now, or health down the road.

 

However, dignity has been lost for sometime in many of the pro sports on this issue, and it is indignant of them now to stand up against something they have benefitted from and lined their pockets, all the while ignoring the greater problem and issue.

 

More rules and oversight is in place, but the consistency and enforcement still is lacking by many of the leagues and governing bodies, and until there is one consistent voice on PED’s, the mixed message being dispersed is loud and clear: 

 

Use them, but don’t get caught, and if you do, it’s because we didn’t protect you.

 

 

 

The BCS Formula For Basketball  Originally published on Turfsports.net April 18, 2010

Watching Butler and Duke play in a back and forth, David versus Goliath national title tilt in NCAA Basketball got me to thinking (scary thought):

 

How many votes and what computer rankings did Butler have to be placed in the title game?

 

The Bulldogs non-conference schedule and ratings must have been off the charts; surely they were unbeaten, especially since all non-BCS schools have to be unblemished to even get a sniff of a BCS game, let alone a national title shot.  And, they had to of finished in the Top 12 in the AP or Coaches Poll (maybe Sagarin’s) to even get a BCS berth.

 

Butler finished with 903 points putting them 11th in the AP, and 511 points making them 8th in the ESPN/Coaches poll.  They finished 8th in the Sagarin’s.

 

Check.

 

But their conference finished 12th overall in those same rankings…so Butler must have received some help from bigger BCS schools losing.  The Bulldogs played BCS teams in Northwestern (win), Minnesota (loss), UCLA (win), Clemson (loss), Georgetown (loss), and Ohio State (win)…a 3-3 record…not bad.  However UCLA was not UCLA this year, so that win is meaningless, or at least it is in the BCS equation.  Northwestern? Not a real hoops power, so that win is no big deal, and losing to Clemson, a mid pack team in the ACC, not helpful.  Ohio State was a quality win, and losing by 7 to the Hoyas is nothing to be ashamed of.  A home loss to the Gophers by 9…they were an NCAA team at least, out of the Big Ten.  Also on their schedule was Xavier; a very good team and a tourney team, but not a BCS program:  Butler bested them by 1.  Throw in a non-conference road loss to UAB (not helpful), and Butler was .500 in their non-league slate.

 

The Bulldogs did win their conference (albeit the mid-major Horizon) by going unbeaten, and winning their conference tourney as well; an overall record of 33-4.  Good, but not perfect. 

 

So how did the “Butler” do it?  I cannot figure it out, maybe they proved it and earned on the court, but we cannot be sure.

 

The BCS is such a wonderful proven system, I am surprised and utterly shocked that NCAA hoops has not been using it, implementing votes and computers in place of (heaven forbid) head to head competition, and forgoing this silly playoff/tournament employed by the NCAA for basketball.  A tournament and playoff is so not hip, and way too competitive…it hurts the kids in class, is too expensive for fans to travel to more than 1 game…and the benefit of the BCS…every team instead could play in a hoops style bowl game, where everyone can celebrate the season, as the new head of the BCS Bill Hancock has stated more often then celebration is mentioned/associated with Mardi Gras.  It would be easier for a writer or coach just to tell us who he/she thinks are the best two teams…heck the champion for that matter.  So Duke is the National Champion; I along with all the sportswriters and coaches know it to be the case, based on the numbers of course!

 

I like it better when I don’t over analyze.

 

For the NCAA who gets it so right (though talk of expansion would delude the tourney) with basketball, they get it equally wrong with big time college football.  How can this split personality and dichotomy in thinking exist as mutually exclusive?  It is because the NCAA has given too much power to the BCS, where they have kept a firm grip on basketball.  Too much faith in AD’s of the big conferences to be fair and objective, and frankly too much belief in their knowledge of college football, based from their BCS conference perspectives.  You can say they are less than impartial.

 

Prior to the title game, Coach K alluded to the fact that you wouldn’t get this kind of match up in college football like Duke and Butler, and that was unfortunate.  What I find unfortunate and ironic, besides the aforementioned NCAA’s split personality, is Duke’s dominance on the hardwoods, and doormat status in football; but they are still in the BCS.

 

The BCS voters got it right though in basketball, Duke won the title. 

 

Too bad the BCS formula would have had Kentucky and Kansas playing for the championship.

 

 

 

 More BS About The BCS       Originally published on Turfsports.net 11-18-09

 The only thing the BCS has going for it is that the system is controversial; which in turn creates a buzz, debate, talk, and intrigue. But so did OJ, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, and any number of police blotter incidents involving the famous. The BCS is that bad, and as flawed as any of the above names, or any of us. Yet somehow that flaw is being reshaped as strength (hello Karl Rove playbook). Now the newest defense of the system being dispensed is “sports are flawed, so why should the BCS be any different?” Those are some the words I hear coming at me from some national sports talk shows. The latest being ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd, whom as a host I listen to and think is talented. I don’t agree with some of his opinions (and he likely would not agree with some of mine), but his latest defense of the BCS shows how askew the logic and reasoning is for defending the system. Cowherd is smart and I do think he believes what he says on the issue, but I have to wonder if the fact that ESPN has now bought the rights to the BCS games and takes over in 2011may have shaded his view.

 

The facts are, that until the BCS has a 1-2 loss non BCS team in a BCS bowl... until the BCS has an unbeaten non-BCS school in the NT game over a 1-2 loss BCS
Conference program...the BCS is collusion and is not about competition. If I
hear another guy say "just win your games" as Cowherd has numerous times, and assumes the system will take care of you, is either defending the indefensible or is plain
blind to the facts & realities on the ground. Ask Utah about winning all their games last year…they didn’t get a shot at the title but OU did? “Just win your games” must have taken a night off when Florida lost to Ole Miss and OU lost to the Longhorns.

 

The other argument I hear made by Cowherd and others is that "no one
wants to see a non-BCS team play in the national title game”. That is irrelevant;
are we talking ratings or competition? Based on that logic,
the Yankees or Sox should always play in the series against the
Dodgers or Cubs. The Lakers should always play Boston for the NBA
title. The Pats, Steelers, Packers, or whatever team Brett Favre is on
should get automatic berths to the Super Bowl. AND Notre Dame should just play one
game, the national title game every year against a rotating field of USC, Florida,
Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, & Michigan,

You watch...Texas, Florida, or Bama slips up prior to their conference championship
games or during, they will still get consideration over TCU (of course
TCU must take care of their business) and why? Well, if it is ratings, Cowherd is dead on, but last I checked College Football does not figure in a programs TV share and rating as a ranking tool, otherwise the aforementioned Fightin’ Irish would be Top 2 every year. But if ratings are the truth as to who gets in and who doesn’t, be honest and say so BCS. The reality is truth and honesty with the BCS is mutually exclusive.

 

"Every game matters" is as big a lie in terms of the BCS argument as
is denying we landed on the Moon, and those BCS defenders are every bit as out to lunch.

Again, tell Utah every game matters, tell TCU, tell Boise State; Utah had to settle for kicking Alabama in the junk in the Sugar Bowl in what was essentially a “home game” for the Tide. The BCS apologists then said "the Tide had nothing to play for" and "didn't
want to be there". If that is true, then Alabama should just opt out and give the slot to another team who "wants", allegedly, to be there.

Rationalize it any way you want, Cowherd and the ilk that defend the Bowl Championship Series are wrong, and the system is wrong; the BCS excludes and eliminates competition. But everyone loves gawking at an accident and talking about a controversy.

 




 BCS:  The C Stands For Crock (And For Those Who Continue To Defend It)  Originally published on Turfsports.net 1-9-09

 On the most recent “Direct Point”, I interviewed Brian Higgins, the founder of BowlRevolution.com, a site and organization advocating for a playoff system for FBS (formerly know as D-1) College Football.  Higgins, like me, thinks it is wrong to have a champion at that elite level, settled by votes and a computer instead of on the field.  If every other sport, let alone the rest of the NCAA and NAIA College Football programs have a playoff, why not the “big boys”?  One reason is the ridiculous defense of the BCS we hear from top sports personalities and media member’s who should (and do) know better.

 

Just after the 2009 College Football season, Bob Ryan, whom I have great respect and admiration as a writer/media personality, while discussing the then MWC Conference’s Utah Utes, who were unbeaten and hammered Alabama in the Sugar Bowl  said on ESPN’s  PTI that, “Utah picked the wrong year to go unbeaten”.  Ryan, not realizing it, just pointed out another major flaw and fallacy of the BCS system:  When is it ever a wrong year/season to go unbeaten?  The answer is NEVER.  But in the Bizarro world of the BCS where their slogan/mantra/rational for not having a playoff is “every game means something”, it is obvious every game doesn’t, because if it did, Utah, who won all their games during the 2009 season that “meant something”, would have been the National Champs.  Florida, the “voted”, coup installed champion, lost “a game that meant something”, to a then unranked, underwhelming Ole Miss.  Texas? They lost “a game that meant something” to Texas Tech.  USC?  They lost a “game that meant something” to Oregon State, an Oregon State team who lost a “game that meant something” to Utah, who by the way, did I mention, didn’t lose a game, and whose 13 games all “meant something”, and, well, they won all 13.  I guess the 2009 season “meant more” to Utah then the rest of the FBS teams, since they were the only unbeaten team.

 

But beyond Bob Ryan’s horrible pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible, those who now are coming out of the woodwork advocating a playoff, and in defense of the Utah’s, TCU’s, and Boise State’s…where the hell have you been the past decade?  It is intellectually dishonest to speak out for a fair and true system/playoff when it is safe to hide behind a program that has done this twice in the past 5 years, and two other programs (most notably TCU in 2010) that have gone unbeaten and taken BCS programs out along the way in major bowls.  It would have shown more guts and honest conviction to say these things since the inception of the BCS.  Where were the John Feinstein’s and Rick Reilly’s during the 2008 season with Hawaii?   It shouldn’t/doesn’t matter whether a Utah, TCU, Boise State, or Hawaii won or lost in the bowl game; if the system is wrong, it is wrong.  I am glad some media types are now speaking out, but if they only feel safe in expressing now the injustice when the conditions are favorable, then I am thankful these folks cover sports and not topics or issues of greater import, or else the right thing to do would only occur after the right conditions exist.

 

Another argument pro BCS was made by ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. Though I don’t agree with some of his opinions (and he likely would not agree with some of mine), his defense of the BCS shows how askew the logic and reasoning is for defending the system. Cowherd is smart and I do think he believes what he says on the issue, but I have to wonder if the fact that ESPN has now bought the rights to the BCS and takes over in 2011, may have shaded his view.   Cowherd’s view is that "no one wants to see a non-BCS team play in the national title game”. That is irrelevant; are we talking ratings or competition? Based on that logic, the Yankees or Red Sox should always play in the Series against the Dodgers or Cubs. The Lakers should always play Boston for the NBA title. The Pats, Steelers, Packers, or whatever team Brett Favre was on should get automatic berths to the Super Bowl. AND Notre Dame should just play one game, the national title game every year against a rotating field of USC, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, & Michigan,

If it is ratings, Cowherd is somewhat correct, but folks now don’t watch crappy bowl games, but WOULD watch a playoff game with greater stakes even if the teams competing were not marquee programs. However last I checked, College Football does not figure in a team’s TV share and rating as a ranking tool, otherwise the aforementioned Fighting’ Irish would be Top 2 every year.  But if ratings are the truth as to who gets in and who doesn’t, be honest and say so BCS….save all the faking of polls, votes, and fretting of how to explain how the system shuns an unbeaten non-BCS team for a 1-2 loss BCS program.  The reality is truth and honesty with the BCS is mutually exclusive.

"Every game matters" is as big a lie in terms of the BCS argument as is denying we landed on the Moon, and those BCS defenders are every bit as out to lunch. Again, tell Utah every game matters, tell TCU, tell Boise State; Utah in 2009 had to settle for kicking Alabama in the junk in the Sugar Bowl in what was essentially a “home game” for the Tide. TCU last season in the Rose Bowl showed up Wisconsin, in the traditional Big 10 Champion’s bowl game.  The BCS apologists then said "the Tide had nothing to play for" and "didn't want to be there".  If that is true, then Alabama should have opted out and given the slot to another team who "wants", allegedly, to be there, and in the case of TCU, apologist’s said “their schedule was easier than the Badgers”, which ignores the fact the MWC was higher rated as a league in the power rankings at the end of 2010 then the Big 10.

Rationalize it any way you want, Cowherd and the ilk that defend the Bowl Championship Series are wrong, and the system is wrong; the BCS excludes and eliminates competition. The only thing the BCS has going for it is that the system is controversial; which in turn creates a buzz, debate, talk, and intrigue.  But so did OJ, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, and any number of police blotter incidents involving the famous.  The BCS is that bad, and as flawed as any of the above names, or any of us.  Yet somehow that flaw is being reshaped as strength (hello Karl Rove playbook).   Even the current defense of the BCS being dispensed; “sports are flawed, so why should the BCS be any different?” is flawed itself.  The people in charge of the BCS are allowing FBS Football to be flawed, and doesn’t have to be.  Let’s let the “flaws” and human error of a fumble, dropped pass, interception, missed tackle, or blocked kick, be the errors and flaws that decides a champion.  But the BCS, like OJ, MJ, or other celebs who become a public spectacle, is an accident and embarrassment that everyone loves gawking at, and a controversy that continues.

 

Affirmative Action Or Just Ignorance?  Originally published 1-11-07 on Turfsports.net 

Spencer Tillman is an average college football analyst.  His knowledge is decent, his report with his colleagues is amicable, and he does a pedestrian job at covering and critiquing a game he played at a high level while at Oklahoma.  But what he said in regard to his alma mater and their opponent in analyzing the Fiesta Bowl the day prior to the game set me off, and should have upset you and others on many different levels. 

 

What he said was that Boise State playing in the Fiesta Bowl is equivalent to "Affirmative Action"; the policy of promoting people of color in jobs and promotions if equally, or as close to equally as qualified as their white counterparts. A policy that is fiercely debated, applauded, despised, reviewed, abused, litigated, while also leveling the playing field (if you will) of the inequities of our not so glorious or recent racist past.

 

Tillman's comments are ignorant on two levels:

 

The first being the less serious, but egregious nonetheless.  Boise State EARNED their spot in the BCS by finishing ranked at least #12 (as the rule states for teams from the non-BCS conferences).  Boise was ranked at the time in the Top 10 in both polls.  There was no "Affirmative Action" needed; Boise State was the clear choice and right one for one of the 5 BCS bowl berths. For Tillman to even complain or say anything about the Broncos’ qualifications for a berth calls into question his own (more on that later).  Ignoring that rule of entry for non-BCS schools would be equal to ignoring any of the 6 BCS Conference Champs resume' and questioning their validity/status as BCS worthy.  Those 6 BCS Champions, by declaration of the NCAA Football rules, gain entry to the BCS bowls by winning their conference.  Those same rules state that non-BCS schools must finish with at least the #12 ranking, which again Boise State did (and then some).  If there is any inequity in this, it falls squarely on the non-BCS schools, which rightly or wrongly have the "burden of proof" to show their validity.  If Affirmative Action exists in NCAA Div 1 Football (now called FBS...Football Bowl System), it is for those schools who happen to be in BCS Conferences but couldn't win in a non-BCS Conference if their life depended on it...Vanderbilt, Duke, Baylor, Stanford, Northwestern, Indiana, Kansas, UCONN, Illinois, Mississippi State, Mississippi (to name a few from this year), and in almost every year but this one, Rutgers & Wake Forest.  What we have here is a pretty darn good list of basketball schools, but this group of teams would have a very tough time finishing mid-pack in the WAC (Boise State’s conference) or in the Mountain West Conference in football.  Shouldn't teams be judged on their individual merit, not their affiliation?  That, Spencer Tillman is the true error of "Affirmative Action" and what you should understand it to be, not what you shared in your analysis of the Fiesta Bowl.
 

On a deeper level, I find Tillman's comments offensive (albeit I am a white male) to those people of color who have benefited/been a part of the Affirmative Action process to get an opportunity that otherwise may have been denied them solely based on their "affiliation"…in this case the color of their skin. Those same comments show Tillman's lack of historical perspective and ignorance of his own people's history and struggles.  Struggles that have made Spencer Tillman's life much easier today than it was even 30-40 years ago when Tillman was young boy.  This is not to say that there are not and have not been abuses of Affirmative Action in our society, and possibly Affirmative Action may be antiquated.  But the antiquation could be a direct result of what Affirmative Action has and had done since being enacted for those who benefited from it.  People of color now have the ability, experience, education, confidence, and are today more a part of the infrastructure then any of their previous generations, and have access to now truly compete on that level playing field.

 

Spencer Tillman has the right to say and believe what he wants, and he should thank those who came before him and paved his way to be able to do just that.  Affirmative Action, whether Spencer Tillman agrees with it or not, has worked to his benefit.  How else could Spencer Tillman get his position when there are infinitely more qualified people then him of all ethnicities to do his job?

 

 

The Crisis Of Integrity (And The Absurd Feigned Outrage)    Originally published on Turfsports.net 7-28-07   

We are a society whom at times can be very practical, thoughtful, visionary, intelligent, and fair. Yet when it comes to this countries favorite pastimes; Sports & Politics, we seem to be wearing a Thoroughbred’s blinders: No peripheral vision, no sense of perception, no perspective.

We become outraged at the notion of an athlete using illegal "performance enhancing" substances, or an Official possibly betting and/or fixing games for gamblers, the Mob, or Bookies, or jocks that cruelly use animals for "sport" and "entertainment". But can’t we also see that our other favorite endeavor is permeated with all those same things (even more), and with much greater stakes in that arena, then the fields, parks, and arenas of sport?

At present count, we have a President who one can argue interpreted Intelligence (some would say "fixed") to match his will and desire to start a war with a country who has been shown over 100 times as to having no connection with the events of 9/11. And though he still tries to make a connection, no one shows any real guts/integrity and leadership to question his integrity, and to call him and his administration on the carpet for conducting a "bait and switch" war.

We have an Attorney General who can barely recall what he did 5 minutes ago, parses and dodges questions under oath, has even been caught lying in the process, and has little to no moral fiber. All this because our countries leadership wants to know illegally what you and I talk about or say to each other while online, or on the phone, all in the name of security. Ben Franklin said "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".

A covert CIA officer’s cover and safety were compromised by White House insiders to get back at a US Ambassador’s questioning and criticism of the War. And though the President said those in his administration would be held accountable and possess the highest of integrity, and those who run afoul of those credentials would be brought to justice, Mr. Bush pardoned Scooter Libby, even though a jury of his peers (you and me) found him guilty.

Our VP, who has a thing for shooting off his mouth with F-bombs at Senators, and shooting guns at his friends, seems to think he is the 4th branch of government, and will not comply with legal and constitutional requests for information from his office, citing "executive privilege". His disdain for the laws of this country only echoes the man at the top. The VP just falls in line.

And the latest, and most sad incident, is the potential cover up of what may turn out to be the murder of NFL star Pat Tillman, who just wanted to serve his country, yet the leadership of our country has let him down, and had no qualms with using his name and image as a political football for their marketing and rational for the War effort in Iraq. Some 3 star General will lose a star, and others will be discharged, but this goes much higher, to the 4 Star level, and our Defense Department. Mr. Rumsfeld has this on his hands as well as many other failures.

But where is the outrage for all this?

We seem to be more upset with Barry Bonds and his quest to break Hank Aaron’s Home Run record because of Bonds suspected use of illegal substances to attain the feat. For the record, Bonds has never tested positive to date for any illegal drugs, yet we impugn him. We have facts to impugn our government leaders, but give them a hall pass? Are we living in the "Bizzaro" world?

A NBA Referee is caught up in a gambling/game fixing scandal, and many fret about the integrity of Pro Sports, but we don’t seem to care when our rights are trampled in the name of "security"…where is the fret in ignoring our constitution, where is the anger when one’s patriotism is questioned just because one dissents on the direction of our country? Even our Senate’s patriotism is questioned by the White House when it is asked for a plan in and for Iraq. Dissent is patriotic; in fact it is more patriotic to disagree, our country was founded on it, literally! If we didn’t dissent, we would be saluting the Union Jack instead of the Stars and Stripes.

Michael Vick, if found guilty of dog fighting, should be punished. Cruelty to animals is despicable; but what about cruelty to humans? Many experts would argue Gitmo is the equivalent of a dog pound which houses dogs for fighting, with leashes, torture, and inhumane treatment.

Often our society models our government: If we "sleep at the wheel" at our countries highest levels and act not to care, then that behavior seeps down into other parts of our society and lives. If you want to stop, and care enough to decry the scandal in Sports, then maybe we should care enough to stop the scandal in our countries highest offices.

On the Sports field there is often another day to compete, and make it right. Lives, families, freedoms, peace, and hope, are all at stake in the arena of Politics, where the outcome/score and result of life and death are permanent.

 

“U” And Who Else?    Originally published on DSSOne.com July 2011

Major college sports deals again with another scandal involving a high profile university. 

In fact, it is the “U”…the Miami Hurricanes, a program that is synonymous with controversy, and scandal.  But this latest revelation goes beyond traveling in camouflage, trash talk, stomping on an opponent’s home field insignia, and even possessing guns on campus.  Though not the only university to run afoul of the NCAA and the rules, one can remember Oklahoma under Barry Switzer, the one and only “death penalty” decision handed down by the NCAA to SMU, and in more recent years USC.  Yet it is Miami, the “U” as it’s former players refer to it, a program that has sent countless players to the NFL, possesses 5 national titles, and 2 legendary coaches, that seems to be better known for its “swagger”…a descriptive Miami could actually brand, for its bad boy image, instead of its success and dominance on the field…and frankly they seem to like it way.

It was revealed a University of Miami booster, incarcerated for his in a $930 million Ponzi scheme provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.  Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, and 100 hours of interviews with Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro unearthed an eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. According to Shapiro, the cost estimates are in the millions of dollars, and benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion. Shapiro was also co-owner of a sports and entertainment agency that represented many of the Miami players post college.  Miami’s Athletic Director Chris Freet say the University has been cooperating with the NCAA probe to verify these claims. If what Shapiro has alleged is found to be true, Miami would potentially breach multiple parts of at least four major NCAA bylaws – and possibly many more.

Those include violations of: 

  1. a) Impermissible compensation to coaches.
  2. b) Involving amateurism of athletes.
  3. c) Improper recruiting activity.
  4. d) Extra benefits to athletes.

 

As the NCAA continues its investigation, it has held back comment on the situation.

However that has not prevented others from doing so in their absence.  Though it is normal protocol for the NCAA or an investigative body not to comment on an on going investigation, the NCAA finds itself in a precarious position; they will have to decide the fate of the University of Miami and do so with the death penalty of SMU hanging overhead. 

 

In the 1980’s, Southern Methodist University went from being an average Southwest Conference football program to a powerhouse, for a time eclipsing Texas and other big time programs in the region.  Without revisiting too much of the history (you can Google SMU Death Penalty and get all the background) SMU was found to have severely violated NCAA rules, with those at the top of SMU complicit.  The NCAA decided to disband SMU’s football program for all of 1987 and part of the 1988 seasons.  The program is just now starting to recover, but likely will never get back to its heyday…at least ethically.

 

Many in hindsight feel the penalty was too harsh, and instead of penalizing SMU, it crippled the university for almost 2 decades.  The question is, if there are not severe consequences for severe violations, then where is the motivation (beyond just doing the right and ethical thing…playing by and within the rules) to do things right and fair?

 

The “U” is hardly a first time offender, and yes their reputation proceeds them, but it is a well earned reputation, one that Miami seems more intent on burnishing than banishing.  The only answer is to give them the ultimate penalty.  But with that a caveat, punish the boosters, the administration, and coaches more severely than the athletes.  The players that violated NCAA rules should be penalized, but in a way that reflects their level of involvement, maturity, and ability to resist such temptation.  Often in these situations punishment is doled out equally, but that does not make for equal justice.  Boosters, who are adults, often well heeled, coaches, who lead these young people, administrator’s whose sole job is to educate these young men and women should face much harsher penalties and realities than the athletes, many of whom, when “shown the money”, cars, yachts, women, do not possess the ability to know how to say no and turn away, especially when many of these young people come from homes that do not possess many of the basics, let alone $10 grand in cash.  Punish the University, punish the boosters, and yes penalize and educate the athletes involved, but punishing them to the same degree as those who are in control of the resources and distribution, is akin to punishing the Coke addict and the Coke dealer for the same crime, it is not, and should not be viewed as such.

 

A few months back I interviewed Rapper Andre Nickatina on Direct Point on the subject of paying college athletes.  Though he and I were on opposite sides of the issue, I am beginning to wonder if Andre’s point is more prescient and valid, but not quite in the way we originally discussed.  Maybe if athletes were compensated in conjunction with receiving a scholarship, some of these issues of boosters flashing cash and cars would be less enticing, taking away the power some boosters have in a program, an issue the NCAA lagged on for some time, maybe that would alleviate the temptation for athlete’s to take money and benefits.  My only concern with that would be an “arm’s race” could develop; how much would other schools be willing to “pay” for a player to compete for them, and at that point, college sports becomes even more of farm system/minor leagues for the pros, having nothing to do with college.

 

Though the story of illicit money and boosters is not new to big time college sports, what is new is the cavalier attitude or response this incident has drawn from those in sports media.  Maybe because it isn’t new, and likely because another scandal is just down the road, (in fact there is, with LSU’s starting QB and LB arrested just days ago for 2nd degree battery outside a bar) or that in the scheme of things, how important is this compared to the real crisis that every day folk deal with in these tougher times?

 

However just because it is nothing new, yet continues to happen, aren’t those who provide the coverage, the money to cover these programs and games, are they not a part of the problem?  They could be the solution, if you pardon the re-phrasing of Eldridge Cleaver.

ESPN in particular, but CBS, NBC, ABC, all the regional sports and conference networks could play a role in cleaning up some of the mess, that to some degree they contribute.

Tell these programs that if you run afoul of the rules, the networks yank the money, and not just from them, from the WHOLE conference…talk about peer pressure.  Make it where if a team is a habitual offender, they get kicked out of the league…banished to have to survive on their own for revenue.  That is a solution that I think would have some teeth.


 

I am also disturbed but what I see and hear from those covering sports.  I listen to sports talk, and catch programs here and there, and the other day I heard an ESPN host say he didn’t care about the issue at LSU with its QB or so much for the Miami scandal, because he would still watch a game with them, nothing mattered to him but what he saw on the field, he intimated the funny quote from Bill Parcell’s “Don’t tell me about the birth… show me the baby”!  Results are all that matters…and maybe he is right…fans may still go to games, fans will still watch on TV, TV will stay pay money to cover them…

But if we take the “baby” quote and make it analogous in reference to the issues with college football and money…

That baby may be born premature, it may be born with special needs that require assistance to overcome those needs; otherwise it will have a hard time in its day to day life. The baby may have a serious birth defect that without intervention and care, the baby will die, maybe even a slow death.  The baby may be abandoned; those in charge of its care and nurturing and keeping it on the path to health and growth may just walk away, feeling it is too much responsibility to handle and deal with, not thinking long term of the infant.  And the baby may survive and overcome those obstacles, yet feel the psychological sting of abandonment, which leads to greater issues of trust, insecurity, anger; a damaged child, that unfortunately is viewed and perceived as undesirable.

Unless those “Adults” in the room…the College Presidents, Athletic Director’s, Coaches, and Boosters…are held to a higher standard than those kids and athletes in their charge, then those young people will not learn the lesson of impropriety, and those adults will have failed the student athletes twice.

Unless the sports networks & media, the financiers, benefactors, and bankrollers of these institutions of “higher learning” aren’t willing to hold the programs which they cover and give money to cover accountable, the interdependent cycle of money and bad behavior won’t be broken…and they will fail those institutions.

 

 

SOMETHING IN THE AIR... Originally published on Turfsports.net 7-22-08

8-8-08.
8 is my lucky number; I wore it in Baseball to honor Yaz, the hero of my beloved Boston Red Sox, and always felt 8 brought me good fortune. Here’s hoping 8 and the date for the opening of the Summer Olympics in Beijing China is of good fortune as well.


I am not for the Olympics on the big scale as a stage for protest or grandeur in regard to politics, policies, and ideologies. Yet, I am okay with the personal expression of the athletes (Black Power Salute of 68’, Team USA Men’s Basketball not receiving their tainted Silver Medals in 72’). This year though could be the exception for a number of different and good reasons.
No longer can the world ignore China as an economic and world power, and to do so would be at our own peril. World resources are being consumed by the Chinese on a scale so vast that suddenly other major countries are concerned for their time at the trough. China’s population is about the only thing out growing its consumption, which as you can imagine is quite scary for the rest of the world. Yet with all this, reveals an opportunity; the opportunity for the Chinese to contribute to, and share in the solutions of our finite resources, world hunger, overpopulation, and even politics…their own politics, and we in turn can benefit.


Though China will not in the foreseeable future be what we consider a free nation and people, the small influx of capitalism, the amount that allows a taste of freedom, has transformed the country and its people into a more open nation, thus weakening the governments control enough to allow access and thought into the consciousness of its people. This in itself is a miracle, 1000 times more successful/powerful then any sanctions or war to modify Communist behavior. But should we be surprised? Since we as a free people and democratic society feel we have the best system, wasn’t it only a matter of time until others would recognize the benefits of freedom and choice, that others too would want to taste it? The simple answer is yes, and the simple truth and reality is that it has to happen in China’s time frame, not ours or the rest of the worlds. This doesn’t mean (nor should it) that we need to sit idly by when abuses take place, when Tibetan’s are mistreated and crushed, and when dissidents are imprisoned for speaking out about the ill’s of the Communist Chinese government. However we cannot force China to move any faster then they are able, in order for them to adjust to the new realities of their place on the planet as a major power. Cajoling is good, support for the good things China does is smart; sanctions for the bad things is not, and only hurts those who would most benefit from the aid.


There have been numerous protests this year tied to the Beijing Olympics: Disrupted torch relays, riotous crowds in some of our major cities and others abroad. Freedom to protest is wonderful, but it does little good and means even less to a government whose idea of our freedom is as foreign and frightening as an alien from Mars. In reality, all the displays of protest just makes the Chinese government resist even more and crack down harder on those whom we think we are helping by speaking out for them.


Someone who has been getting blitzed by criticism (and rightly so on so many issues and fronts) is President Bush, who will be attending the opening ceremonies. Human rights groups and some in our government and in foreign governments and nations are incredulous, feeling the President’s attendance is an act of support for the Chinese government’s actions. In some sense those critics are correct, but not for the reasons they think. George Bush is supporting the event of the Olympics, the athletes from our country, and the community of the world joined in sport for 3+ weeks. That is the good we all need to support. It is a lesson that most all of us wish Bush could have, and would have learned with Iraq, and that some of his predecessors would have understood with Viet Nam. One cannot always change behavior with force, threat of sanctions, and isolation. We need to engage, but then allow those we want to change the time and space to come to that decision and path on their own. We cannot be afraid to allow China, with our support, to figure out its own course to a truly free society, even if their type of freedom is slower to come and differs in degrees from our own. There is no way not for there to be growing pains and trips along the way as China evolves into a more free country and culture.


There is something definitely in the air over Beijing: Pollution from the thousands of automobiles that now inhabit the city, a sign of that new found slice of freedom to travel freely! China has come up with a way to deal with the issue of air quality, though not the most democratic solution: Forcing people to take mass transit and limiting cars into the city. But it is a solution nonetheless; an attempt to display their city, country, and people, in a positive light, even as that light is sometimes obscured by smog.

 

 

 

Does Character Count?  Originally published on Turfsports.net  5-10-07

In a sport in which the numbers mean everything and hold a higher place then even it’s stars, one of the, if not THE greatest record in the sport and maybe all of sports is about to be broken.  What if no one came to witness it?  Would it still be a record, would it count?

 

We will find out as early as June as to whether there will be any fanfare, may be literally any “fans” there to witness Barry Bonds eclipsing Hank Aaron’s home run record of 755.

  

This we know for sure, Hank Aaron won’t be there, and Commissioner Bud Selig is looking for a reason, ANY reason not to be in attendance when that day comes.

 

Does character mean anything anymore in sports, let alone the world?  And if so, are there consequences, I mean REAL consequences?  Barry Bonds will have to suffer the consequences of being under suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs to achieve this feat and enhance his ability.  But it goes beyond that, for I believe if Bonds were a sympathetic character, then he would have more people rally to his side, or at least give him the benefit of the doubt.  But since Barry Bonds personifies the “big ego” that most of us detest in humans, let alone over priced, over exposed, “for entertainment purposes only” individuals, most of us just as soon hope Paris Hilton gets a Pardon and avoids going to jail.

 

Bonds is a “character”, and has a character issue.  His peers know this and have not and will not support him.  Though Curt Schilling should know better (he himself no stranger to controversy and he has stirred the pot again with his comments about Bonds), maybe he is saying what the rest of the league really thinks, and truthfully what the fans of Baseball and Sports think and feel:  Barry Bonds is an unsympathetic individual and lacks character. 

 

When Hank Aaron was about to break Babe Ruth’s Home Run record, he received countless death threats, yet continued and persevered with grace and dignity.  Aaron not only is a “Hall Of Fame Baseball Player”, he is a “Hall Of Fame Human Being”.  Bonds likely will qualify for the first Hall, but has far to go in the latter.

 

Maybe it is not fair to compare Bonds to Aaron; they played in two different eras, both in the sport and in society.  But regardless, true character does not ebb and flow with the era, generation, or times in which one is living.  You either have it, or you don’t.  Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron may share the title as the “Greatest Home Run Hitters Ever”, but one title Bonds and Aaron don’t share (so far) is “Hall Of Fame of Character”.  Still that title belongs to Hank Aaron, and he is in a class by himself. 

Like time, Baseball and its records will perpetuate, and eventually those records will be broken.  But character always stands the test of time, and an athlete’s legacy will always be attached to his or her numbers, victories, and defeats.  For what was once said by someone far wiser then I “it’s not whether you’ve won or lost, but how you played the game.”

 

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