Friday, June 29, 2018

Dedicated to John McNamara

A very special edition today.

We have lost a beloved member of our community – John McNamara, who covered high school sports in Maryland for several decades, was among those killed in the shooting at the Capital Gazette this past week.

This column is dedicated to him and the four others. The media is a big industry but a small fraternity – and sorority – if you will. When one of us gets shot, we all do. I can’t help but feel compelled to believe that President Trump’s persistent, vile attacks on the media as a public enemy in good part emboldened the suspected shooter in this case.


To me, it signals that the media should even more persistently resolve to do its job better and more boldly than ever.

***

I see where, as part of her platform, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunningly upset Joe Crowley for a seat in the House of Representatives from New York, calls for free higher education for all. As a former college professor, for 23 years, I know too many students carrying too much overbearing debt in their lives, burdening their ability to fully launch their careers and their future family lives.

But what if what she wants happens – what if college education does become in good part “free,” or subsidized, if you will? What happens to college football, the training ground for future NFL players? What happens to college sports?

Does “free” higher education negate the advantage of “free” tuition for varsity athletes across the country, one of the biggest advantages if not the biggest advantage college athletes get?

Hello, Bernie Sanders, where are you? Would this socialist-leaning policy be the end of college athletics as we know it? Would high-schoolers be able to go directly to the NFL? They can and do in baseball and hockey and formerly did in basketball, which is still only a whisper away from that anyway.

I do like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. I like her energy. I like how idealistic and hopeful she is about America. But wait till she gets to Congress and discovers how quickly idealists like her get their ideals sidetracked by the powers-that-be.
Free higher education? So long to college football? Stay tuned.

***

Jameis Winston just can’t help himself. The same way Donald Trump repeatedly tells lies, Jameis Winston repeatedly gets into trouble.
Now he’s suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season because of behavior that the NFL says violated its conduct policy.

It wasn’t like he didn’t get into trouble in college, especially with sexual assault charges, among other things.

Like I always say to a good friend of mine whose significant other always has and always will put video-gaming ahead of his devotion to her: leopards don’t change their spots.
Ever.

Hello, Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay calling. Again.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The King is Dead! Long Live the King! ... Wait, the King Lives


Wherefore art thou going, Peter King?

After 29 years, he’s walking away from The MMQB at Sports Illustrated, or so he said in on online announcement.

He’s giving up S.I. for NBC Maybe doing the same thing for 29 years is too much to ask of anyone. Except rooting for your favorite team, which you always do for life. Your love for your team always outlasts and outlives your relationship with any significant other you’ve ever had.
Every time.
Why do people change jobs anyway, be it in journalism, sports, sports media or even construction, medicine or being a personal trainer?
Like I always tell the classes I’ve taught (for 24 years), it’s always the money.
Always.
Why do players switch teams in free agency? They always say it’s for the opportunity, the chance to win a championship, but usually, it’s for the money. Ask Scott Michell, Matt Flynn. More recently, Nate Solder.

It’s always the money. And why not? I left my first job as a full-time sports reporter, after seven years, to go to work for a restaurant magazine – which offered me a 37 percent pay raise at the time. With a divorce staring me in the face and all the money to my name in my wallet at any given time, it was a little difficult to pass on it.
But I kept working freelance in sports, and still do to this day, covering games, and writing and editing books, detailing sports business drivers.
Sort of like the emotion that makes sure you value your team more than any other relationship in your life. You know it too.
But Peter King has already made a lot of money, his original Monday Morning Quarterback column becoming a staple of the football world in America. He once wrote the entire thing on his Blackberry. He had a following of 2 million or so we’re told.
I have parlayed my part-time love affair with sports, and my full-time love for my New York Giants, Knicks, Mets and Rangers, into two blogs, freelance work at two major dailies and two books I’ve either written or edited.
Like Peter King, I have a 29-year love affair with Jocelyn, my wife of that time period. She is my rock. She’s a sports fan. But I cheat on her. With sports, that is.
Just like you cheat on your significant other. With sports.
Ain’t it grand?
So go for it, Peter King. Do something “different” at NBC, whatever your job description there may be. You are forever the Monday Morning Quarterback.
Whether you want to be or not.
HOW GOOD WAS YOUR TEAM’S DRAFT?
According to espn.com, Jacksonville should be feeling “confident.” I’m having trouble processing that after watching their coaching staff express no confidence in Blake Bortles at the end of the first half against New England in the AFC Championship Game, making him run out the clock instead of trying to score with timeouts aplenty and decent field position.
The Baltimore Ravens are feeling “hopeful,” says the Mother Ship, after giving Joe Flacco some more weapons. Flacco won a Super Bowl – I mean, the defense won it for him, despite the NFL’s attempts to take it away with the now-famous blackout at the Super Dome. He’s done nothing since, with whatever weapons they gave him. The Ravens are fortunate to have the Browns in their division.
Besides, everyone feels hopeful after the draft and going into OTAs.
Unless your name is Belichick, good luck with that.



Friday, April 13, 2018

More Than One Knee to a Protest

In Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky, where schoolteachers walked out or threatened to walk out (and as a retired college instructor, I support them 100 percent), just wondering, would high school athletics have been threatened too?

In Chicago, where I reside, no school, no sports. No sports, no athletes competing, no chances to show their wares to colleges interested in offering scholarships or pro teams in sports like baseball and hockey, where kids do go directly to the pros, at least at some level, right out of high school (unless your name is Ball, and then you go directly to jail, purgatory or Vermont Avenue on a Monopoly board.

Nothing is more important than educating – and protecting the safety of – our kids. Athletics are part of that educational experience. Let’s protect it and let’s pay our teachers what they deserve so the athletes can display what they can do too. Teachers are educators, not gun-toting security guards.

SEAHAWK SQUAT: Apparently, Colin Kaepernick had been talking with the Seattle Seahawks about making a comeback into the league, likely as Russell Wilson’s backup and, who knows, as a secret weapon in “wildcat” and other special formations.

It wasn’t all that long ago that owners knelt with their players in support of their protest against unfair treatment for all in America. It wasn't all that long ago an owner called the players "inmates." This whole thing is confusing, confounding and ridiculous.

Now, with Donald Trump riling up fans over this, with games taking longer, delayed by prolonged replay reviews, with TV ratings eroding a bit and the game overexposed on TV from Thursdays to Mondays, with the occasional late-season Saturday, and let's not leave out fears of concussion concerns, aha - only now are the owners looking the other way.

As long as the form of protest is passive and peaceful, there is no problem, and when the game starts, it’s forgotten already.

We support our teachers and their protests for more pay, better materials and better venues in which to educate our kids. Some of those kids are playing in the NFL now.

Unfortunately, one of them is Reuben FosterWhy aren’t you, Donald Trump, declaring he should be “fired?”


Because you should be.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

NFL S_it Job

Remember when football players could put their heads down and ram into someone? Can’t do that anymore. In fact, can’t hit anyone leading with your helmet.

So does that mean if someone is about to hit you, you can’t put your head down to protect yourself with your helmet?

This new no-leading-with-the-helmet rule is going to be interesting to watch (no it isn’t) and definitely interesting to enforce (yes it is).

Players have consistently said they’d rather be hit high (even around the head) than low (around the career-ending knee injury).

So where are you supposed to hit someone? Where can you hit someone?

Ribs? Stomach? Thighs? Calves?

Crack. Strain. Bruise. Muscle pull.

There is no good place to hit someone anymore because anyplace you get hit is injury prone, head to toe. Let alone a penalty.

But for the NFL, billion-dollar concussion lawsuits are less to their liking than player careers ending after just a few years, which is the average length of a career anyway

In other words, anytime Tom Brady gets hits someplace on his body where you can’t take something and stick it after folding it five ways and sideways (with all due respect to the original Bad News Bears movie), then we get a rule that restricts player movement, hitting, spitting, celebrating, thinking and practicing and/or any combinations thereof.

According to Sports Illustrated, and we paraphrase here to save space, with the new rules on hits to the head, defenses would be cited for roughing-the-passer penalties alone 37 more times than the prior season. And personal fouls would go up by at least 32 flags, a pace of 256 for the season, or 18 more than the prior year.

That, my friends, is from an article by S.I.’s Jim Trotter, on Oct. 3, 2011, discussing new league-wide, hit-to-the-head penalties instilled that season with the comparative totals to the 2010 season.

Imagine what 2018 is going to look like now compared to 2017. Longer games, more flags, more replays, and this time, the penalty can be reviewed, which has not been allowed by the NFL to this point in its history.

Somewhere, Johnny Unitas just rolled over and Joe Namath started drinking again.

And we are headed to the National Flag Football League before too long unless someone comes up with equipment, rules, padding and officiating that cuts through all this.

QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: I’ve heard enough. From all the experts. Mel Kiper Jr. Todd McShay. Colin Cowherd. Pete Prisco.

USC’s Sam Darnold is going to the Browns at No. 1 and if they don’t take him, they are fools. The Giants need to take Josh Rosen from UCLA, who outplayed Darnold in defeat when USC beat UCLA. He is an Eli Manning prototype with a fantastically accurate arm, best I saw last year. Let Denver and Buffalo fight it out for draft position for Josh Allen after that. Mason Rudolph and Luke Falk are out there too. And remember folks, Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick.

If the Giants trade the pick, they will get numerous other picks with which they will select three offensive linemen who will be out of the league by 2021, three defensive linemen who will be out of the league by 2022 and two defensive backs who will unfortunately still be with them in 2023.

The Packers took Aaron Rodgers, groomed him three years and then let Brett Favre go and Rodgers has worked out – well, pretty OK, ya’ think?

Hey Giants, do the same with Rosen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Chicago's Very Own - Sinclair Sports

With Sinclair about to prospectively take over Chicago's Very Own WGN, we're wondering if the impact of its editorial declaration of war on "fake news" will have any impact on sports coverage. Let's take a peek ahead.

And now, back to the Crosstown Classic...

Sunday, May 13, at Wrigley Field...

Jason Bennetti: Welcome back to Wrigley, where the fake-news guys covering Chicago baseball are getting their lunch eaten by the Chicago White Sox this season, and in this series.

Steve Stone: Uh, Jason...

Jason: Steve, hold your water. Sox fans have been hearing it for years, since Cheatin' Theo got into town, using all those phony analytics and fixing all those games so the Cubs could break their curse.

Steve: Jason, just a second...

Jason: Steve, no, just a minute. We've waited years for this. Now we're finally seeing our building, not rebuilding as the fake media have cast it, finally pay off, and the fake-news boys over there in the press box and in the broadcast booth next door to us know how it feels.

Steve: J-A-S-O-N! We're not on Sinclair - uh, WGN today. We're on NBC Sports Chicago. They're on Unclear - uh, Sinclair today.

Jason: Oh...

...meanwhile, in the Cubs broadcast booth...

Len Kasper: Are you listening to those idiots on the "fake news" telecast talk about the "fake news" that we're supposedly doing?

Jim DeShaies: Uh, Len, we are.

Len: Oh yeah, that's right. But only until tomorrow, Jim, only until tomorrow.

Jim: Like a Jon Lester fastball, tomorrow can never come fast enough.

Len: Damn, so that pitch we said Rizzo struck out on was only an 88 mile-per-hour change-up and not a 95 mile-per-hour heater?

Jim: Yup.

Len: Are we even on-air now? Thought they were making a pitching change.

Jim: Yes, and yes.

Len: Damn.

...meanwhile, back in the White Sox booth...

Jason: So, you're saying, we're real news today. And they're fake news tomorrow?

Steve: Who cares? Our next game is against Pittsburgh.

Jason: Damn Pirates. They are such fake contenders.

Steve: J-A-S-O-N!!! Damn, where's Swirsky when I need him?






Sunday, April 1, 2018

Don't Worry, Mexico Will Pay for It

Keep wondering, what else is Mexico going to pay for, besides the wall?

The NFL wants to play a preseason game in Mexico City. Who’s going to pay for it?
  • ·        Mexico.

The NFL wants to play one, maybe two or more regular-season games in Mexico City. Who’s going to pay for it?
  • ·        Mexico.

The NFL wants Pink Floyd to perform “The Wall,” (even though those guys hate each other) at halftime of next year’s Super Bowl (in Mexico?). Who’s going to pay for the performance of “The Wall?”
  • ·        Who do you think?

The Steelers want to rebuild a likeness of their “Steel Curtain” championship defenses and get back to the Super Bowl. Who’s going to pay to rebuild that Hall-of-Fame wall?
  • ·        Mexico?

Donald Trump was in San Diego last week, examining prototypes for the ‘Wall’ to keep what he called those drug-dealing, murderous rapists out of the United States.
  • ·        No wonder the Chargers moved all the way up north to Los Angeles.

In Major League Baseball, it’s guys like Fabricio Macias, who are the future of and carry the burden of the past hitters of all those homers for fans everywhere. So who should be paying their salaries?
  • ·        You had to ask?

And if Pink Floyd won’t regroup to play “The Wall” at the Super Bowl, how about getting Santana and his band to perform at halftime of SB LIII? They are touring this year.
  • ·        And get you know who to pay for it.

The point is, it’s time for Donald Trump to stop talking about building a wall that no one is going to pay for, not even we taxpayers, let alone Mexico. 

The NFL could probably afford to pay cash and build the wall Trump has proposed, and promised, but the optics of that wouldn’t play well for a league that has promoted heavily in and directly to an audience in Mexico.

Let’s knock down the wall separating the quality of Mexican futbol from American futbol. And let’s forget about the wall Trump wanted Mexico to pay for and have a look at the other side of the wall Robert Mueller is trying to break through.


Let’s stop insulting Mexicans and start embracing all the immigrants who built the foundation upon which our country rests. I don’t remember that including a wall to keep anybody out.

Monday, March 26, 2018

So, your mom's prostitute? And the problem is..?

So, you’ve got this handsome, sharply and appropriately dressed young man in your office.

He’s applying for the opening you’ve advertised and his credentials appear to be a perfect fit: he has endurance; fitness; smarts; thinks on the fly; has the expertise necessary for his position; has had the appropriate training in college; and has social skills that shine in any office or inter-client environment.

So what’s the first thing you want to know about him? What is the one essential that will separate him from the qualifications of the other young men who will apply for this same position? Some of them you’ve already interviewed and you were impressed by their appearances.

So how is this new young man under pressure? How is he when the right move has to be made, no matter what? How is he at beating the opposition to the spot where the deal is sealed, the contract is executed and the men are separated from the boys?

Literally.

Let’s see, how about starting with: what’s your sexual orientation? There’s a deal-closer.

Why stop there? Even if the prospect answers that to your company’s satisfaction, how about the natural follow-up: is your mother a prostitute

Such was the case at the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where running back Derrius Guice was asked just that, or so he says, by one of the teams that interviewed him.

What’s next? Try this: “A boy is 17-years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23-years old, what will be the age of his sister?

That is an actual question from a sample Wonderlic exam that the league has been famous for using to measure mental capacity among the athletic studs gathered to show off their running, jumping and other agility skills.

But seriously, in a league known for a Greg Hardy, a Ray McDonald and a Ray Rice, why not test for a Sada Abe, Sally Salisbury and/or a Lulu White [in someone’s ancestral background. 

How long before 23 and Me and Ancestry are bidding to be the official DNA bloodline ancestral background-checkers of the league.
Think about it: it could probably help eliminate any more “wardrobe malfunctions” at halftime of the Super Bowl, ever.
Well, actually, nah…


But when the whole league is on malfunction alert, what’s a halftime boob flashing by comparison?
***
Emptying the notebook:
In a move that is leading to a change in the Process-of-The-Catch Rule, the league has declared that the prospective game-winning catch by Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in the waning seconds against the Chicago Bears was a touchdown and should not have been overturned on review on the basis of the “process of the catch.”

Eight years later.

***

Should pass interference be a 15-yard penalty or a spot-of-the-foul call? The league is considering the former. As it stands, it’s the latter. 

In college and high school, it’s the former, except in college, it’s spot-of-the-foul if it occurs beyond 15 yards downfield.
What do you think? As if it matters to the league…

***

Finally, this nugget. OK, let’s say, this slice. Papa John’s, which protested that the player kneeling protests during the national anthem were costing it pizza sales because of its association with the league as an official sponsor, is dropping its official contractual relationship, therefore.

Better ingredients. Better pizza. What about Papa John’s though?