Peyton Manning - SNL

While I will, of course, forever hate Peyton Manning for defeating my beloved Bears in the Super Bowl (though another quarterback probably deserves the credit/blame), due props for this hilarious appearance on Saturday Night Live:

Teaching children to do bad things is inherently funny. Peyton Manning teaching children to do bad things is that much better. Also, love the swearing.

Let Briggs Go?

briggs.jpgLance Briggs has burned his bridges in Chicago. I see little or no way for him to play for the team again, nor do I want him to. Unfortunately, he and his uber-ass agent Drew Rosenhaus have so terribly misplayed their hand that Briggs has come across as a Terrell Owens-like petulant child.

Make no mistake, Briggs had a chance to come across as the victim in this situation, no matter how crazy it is that a 26-year old man (my age!) could be upset at making $7.2 million this year. After the awful PR that the Bears management received for their stone-walling of Lovie Smith, and with a decades-old reputation for being cheap, the Bears could have easily been portrayed as mistreating a loyal defensive playmaker who has played hard despite being terribly underpaid ($400k a year) and operating in the shadow of fan-favorite Brian Urlacher.

Yet Rosenhaus and Briggs managed to turn the whole thing around, alienate everyone inside Chicago and out, and come across as the bad guys. At long last, another team appears stupid enough to try and take Briggs off our hands. The gullible sap, willing to overpay for a petulant free agent? Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins, of course:

Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Bears' disgruntled Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, told FOXSports.com that the Redskins informed him Monday that they would like to swing a deal that would send Washington's first-round pick, No. 6 overall, to Chicago for the Bears' first-rounder, No. 31, and Briggs.

When asked about such an offer Redskins owner Dan Snyder confirmed to FOXSports.com that he in fact wanted to make the move and they were waiting to talk to Chicago.

I have mixed feelings on this offer. On the one hand, we get rid of Briggs. We send him to a team that doesn't really need him (check out profootballtalk.com for why), so he'll probably be exposed for the Urlacher-dependent player he is. We get the chance to draft a potential star of the future with a high first-round pick.

On the other hand, I don't think it is enough. I'd like to see the Redskins throw in a third or fourth-round pick, especially with Angelo's recent success with mid-round picks. And the problem with high first-round picks is that you have to pay them like high first-round picks, with no guarantee of success.

Briggs is a known commodity, and if we could make him a part of our team again, it would be better. But if that's off the table, and it seems to be, then the Bears have to make the most of it. I say hold out for a mid-round pick. Otherwise, let Briggs sit out the season, franchise him again, make him sit out another season, and let Rosenhaus and Briggs suffer the consequences of their stupidity.

UPDATE: You've got to love sports fans. While I and other Bears' fans adamantly demand more compensation for Briggs, Redskins' fans are just as adamant that their team get more than just our first round pick in addition to Briggs. Hilarious.

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds is a cheater, in my opinion, and should be banned from baseball. That's the way I've felt for a long time, and nothing in the recent months has come out to make me feel any different. Actually, the facts of the case are no longer just damning, they are becoming disgusting:

You hear all that noise from the Bonds camp and yet most conspicuous is the silence on challenging the facts of the case. Shadows succeeded because it couched nothing and stood unchallenged. My favorite fact: the authors detail in their afterword the freakish growth of Bonds' body parts in his years with the Giants: from size 42 to a size 52 jersey; from size 10 1/2 to size 13 cleats; and from a size 7 1/8 to size 7 1/4 cap, even though he had taken to shaving his head.

Can you imagine your shoe size increasing by two and a half sizes, in your late thirties? What a sad, pathetic man. There are no records, no adulation, no amount of money that can justify this abuse.

Ron Rivera to San Diego

riveraChicago owes a debt of gratitude to Ron Rivera for three years of loyal service as our defensive coordinator, helping to craft one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in recent years. His departure to San Diego, while a surprise, is really not too hard to understand. This has always been, and will always be, Lovie Smith's defense. Rivera was just never going to get the credit he probably wanted for the Bears' defensive dominance.

As noted at Windy City Gridiron, the move probably makes sense for the Bears. The Bears get to keep Bob Babich, a hot young defensive coach, and in him get the stability of a defensive coordinator who probably won't be interviewing for nine head coaching jobs in two years (as Rivera did). Rivera gets to learn the 3-4, which was apparently a major weakness in his resume, though I agree with Da' Bears Blog:

The NFL changes on a dime and for all the 3-4 jobs available this year, there'll be twice as many 4-3 jobs up next year. Why not continue to coordinate one of the two or three best defenses in football and throw your hat back into the ring next year when a Giants or a Jaguars or even a Bucs job might be available?

As for the money issue, which is always the elephant in the room (and especially with these Bears, who still need to pony up for Lovie Smith), I think Lovie Smith has to be the priority, then the offensive coordinator. With a defense run by the head coach, the defensive coordinator spot is just not going to be as lucrative as it might be somewhere else.

UPDATE: Peter King is reporting that Lovie Smith simply fired Rivera in favor of Babich. Fair enough.

Army vs. Yale

No, no, this is not about the Solomon Amendment or ROTC. It is much bigger. Starting in 2010, Army and Yale are renewing their football rivalry:

Yale will travel to West Point's Michie Stadium in 2010, the first time the two teams have met since 1996, the two schools announced Tuesday. The teams will meet again in West Point in 2012. "The Yale-Army series has a glamorous tradition and we are thrilled to have it back," Tom Beckett, Yale's athletic director said Tuesday.

The teams have met 45 times, with Yale holding a 21-16-8 advantage. Yale beat Army 28-0 in the first game between the two schools in 1893. The last time the two teams met, in 1996, Army beat Yale 39-13.

Now I'll have two chances each year to watch my teams pummel Yale.

And With the 4th Pick...

bensonYou don't have to be the second coming of Walter Payton. I'll take a thousand yards a year for the next five or six years and consider myself blessed. Just please, please, please don't pull a Salaam/Enis on me. I told my wife that I'd almost rather the Bears just gave up their pick rather than draft another huge disappointing failure.

So this time my expectations are going to be more reasonable. Take a bit of the burden off of Grossman, average nearly four yards a carry for 20-25 carries, and Chicago will worship you. I mean, does anyone even remember Neal Anderson, the last consistent running back we had?

Anyway, here's what stuff CNN/SI had to say about brand new Chicago Bears running back, a bullet out of the University of Texas, ladies and gentleman, Cedric Benson:

An outstanding athlete who gave up a career in baseball, Benson has all the physical skills to be a premier NFL back. Has the abilities to be a three-down player effective in passing situations. Must pick up the tempo of his blocking and does not always show a fire in his belly, yet when hitting on all cylinders a franchise running back.

Alright then Cedric, let's light that fire in your belly.

Mock Drafts

I think there is something quite fitting about the numerous parallels in the present speculation surrounding two mysterious events that will alter the future of our lives: the NFL draft and the papal conclave. If only the 49ers GM could choose the pope and the cardinals could decide what to do about the #1 pick.

They Made Canseco Look Good

I do not know who Mark McGwire retained as counsel, but he ought to fire whomever told him to spout this nonsense at a Congressional hearing:

Former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire refused to answer questions about steroid use during his playing career at a congressional hearing Thursday, repeatedly telling a House committee he was "not here to talk about the past."

As anyone could have predicted, this went over like a ton of bricks and all the major newspapers went with "McGwire won't talk" as the theme of their front-page coverage. Sportwriters, who disagree with each other as part of their genetic makeup, are unanimous that McGwire's performance did irreparable damage to his image, singlehandedly asterisked his home run record, and may cost him a first ballot Hall of Fame vote, if not HOF status completely.

The larger story, though, is that somehow, in the bizarro world of Congressional hearings and Major League Baseball, Jose Canseco came off as the most reasonable, truthful, reliable person involved. Rafael Palmeiro may have gotten just angry enough to absolve himself, but neither Schilling's backing off his years of steroid-bashing nor Sammy Sosa pretending he didn't speak English were any more credible than McGwire's interest in looking to make a "positive influence."

All in all, a horrendous day for a sport I love, but one that Selig, Fehr, and these cheaters we call baseball players richly deserved.

Awesome Trade

When I saw that the Cubs might give up Matt Clement, and to the Red Sox (who I do not like), I was not pleased. Now I am:

When the complicated four-team deal that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs finally was completed, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said, "you never go to work thinking he's going to be available." Especially when you don't have to give up a quality starting pitcher to get him.

But that was the case for the Cubs, who added another All-Star caliber right-handed bat to their lineup, and gave up nothing more than the shortstop Garciaparra replaces, a great young bullpen arm and a prospect from a deep farm system.

But not Matt Clement, who was rumored to be involved in talks leading up to the surprisingly busy conclusion of the non-waiver trade period on Saturday. And not either of their top two prospects. For an improved chance at getting back to the postseason, it was a move the Cubs couldn't refuse, and considering the deadline failures of their wild-card rivals in the National League West, you can make a case for the Cubs now being the wild-card favorite.

Cubs fans are not used to smart personnel decisions, so don't be surprised if this somehow backfires horribly. But for now, Nomar is the man.

UPDATE: That said, it is just plain bizarre to see Nomar in a Cubs uniform.

It is going to be some time before this looks normal.

DiMaggio and Hemingway

hemingway.gifGreat little anecdote from David Halberstam's Summer of '49, which I've just begun (having sadly reached the end of my second reading of The Lord of the Rings):

Soon after he retired as a player, [DiMaggio] returned with a group of friends to the Stadium to watch a prize fight. He was with Edward Bennett Williams, the famed trial lawyer, Toots Short, the saloon-keeper, Averell Harriman, the politician-diplomat, and Ernest and Mary Hemingway. Suddenly an immense mob gathered. Hundreds of kids, a giant crowd within a crowd, descended on DiMaggio demanding autographs. One kid took a look at Hemingway, whose distinctive face had graced countless magaizne covers. "Hey," the kid said, "you're somebody too, right?" Hemingway said without pause, "Yeah, I'm his doctor."

Classic. What a group, though! I'd love to know what Ernest Hemingway and Edward Bennett Williams had to say to each other. Hard to believe they existed in the same world, let alone the same world as Joe DiMaggio.

More on Barnett

My disgust at the situation at CU has increased every day this week. The jackass does not deserve any more attention than he's been given, but I have to second this editorial about Gary Barnett in today's Washington Post (link via my girlfriend):

[A] portrait is emerging of Barnett as a coach so out of touch that he firmly disciplined lateness or dressing out of uniform but failed to report an alleged rape to authorities. In a 2001 police report filed by yet another woman who said she was assaulted by a football player, Barnett is quoted as saying that if she pursued rape charges he "would back his player 100 percent."

It's not inherently wrong, sexist, or even old-fashioned to say that football can make a better man. In fact, the game, like all games, can be a great teacher of manhood. The problem lies in the definition of what is manly. At the end of the 19th century, social historian Joseph Kett observed, "The word 'manliness' itself changed meaning, coming to signify less the opposite of childishness than the opposite of femininity."

Ideally, modern manliness should not be about sexuality, or about men performing with women watching them, or about girls and boys, in Barnett's kind of parlance. Too many coaches and athletes continue to confuse manliness with virility. What they wind up with is a drunken puerile definition, a stumbling, slurring, hulking, and even assaulting cartoon of manhood. What a good modern football coach ought to be interested in creating is not a virile man, but simply a grown man, an adult who is in command of himself and his impulses.

Clearly, Gary Barnett is not the man for that job.

Amen. Fire him.

Fire Him

barnett.gifI say fire him. That's right, toss him out on his ass. No, not just for these horrible remarks about an alleged rape victim, though that should be enough. No, not just because under his watch the football program has descended into a redlight sideshow of sex and money, those that is certainly enough. No, I'd fire him for one reason: lack of accountability.

From the first second this scandal began to emerge, Barnett has disclaimed all knowledge of the sex-filled recruiting parties, and now claims he was never aware of any harassment suffered by this young woman who entered the lion's den with no support or protection from her coach. Has anyone seen Coach Barnett stand up and admit that even in the implausible scenario in which his recruits go to parties with strippers and escorts, his one female player gets harassed and taunted, and it all occurs without his knowledge, at the end of the day it was his leadership and his discipline that failed? This is not a matter of political correctness, or scapegoating. This is called accountability, or responsibility. It it his failure. Period. Fire him. The athletic director too. Maybe the president of CU. And that is in the rosy scenario giving Coach Barnett and other administrators the benefit of the doubt on their ignorance. Count me as a skeptic there too.

And I'll tell you what. If I were on the Board of Regents of CU, there'd be some long, hard discussions about whether keeping a football program at all was for the greater good of the school. In fact, were I on the board of any university, there'd be a long, hard discussion about that.

Minor League Porn Star

Apparently it is top news that a minor league baseball player once appeared in a gay porn video while in college in Japan. This got me, and I'm sure many others, thinking about the absence of gay players in professional sports.

A good portion of my discussions about gay exclusion has centered on the military, both in my days in ROTC and now in law school. That's understandable, since Congress' "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy remains one of the few explicitly exclusionary rules against gays that the government sponsors.

Yet I've often wondered why professional sports did not come in for greater scrutiny. Obviously we are not dealing with government sponsored exclusion, but from a moral standpoint we ought to be awfully disturbed by the lack of a single openly gay player in baseball, the NFL, the NHL or the NBA. In fact, perhaps we should be more disturbed. Setting aside the wisdom of "don't ask, don't tell," at least we can point to an explicit doctrine that prevents gays from serving openly. We can debate it, we can attack and defend it, and we can encourage our legislators to vote for or against it. Yet with professional sports, there can't even be a discussion about changing this or that policy, since there's no policy to discuss. It's just a cultural phenomenon.

I mean, does anyone really believe that there are no gay players in any of these leagues? I sure don't. And what does that tell us? Are they afraid of their teammates? Their managers? Their fans?

I will say that I was very impressed by the statements of Tadano's teammates, who seems to have gotten plenty of support. Of course, this tells us little about how they would react if he were actually gay (and not a porn actor), instead of pleading that he is not, and that he simply made a one-time mistake.

Watch Your Step

Here's an unnerving story:

Britain's biggest-selling hiking magazine apologized Wednesday after its latest issue contained a route that would lead climbers off the edge of a cliff on Britain's tallest peak.

As someone with a couple years worth of Backpacker magazine archived on my shelf, I can't deny being a little frightened by this. Truth be told, I wouldn't find myself in quite such a precarious position (mountains are not really my thing), but it still gives me the shivers.

Pete Rose is a Jerk

I've never been very sympathetic to Pete Rose. I'm a baseball purist, and really do believe that betting on the game is the greatest sin a ballplayer can commit (as opposed to sins committed as a private citizen, like domestic abuse). It's been several generations since the Black Sox scandal nearly brought down the game, so many can be forgiven for underestimating the danger of this crime against baseball.

This week it has been hard to avoid the coverage of Rose and his public admission that, alas, he did in fact bet on baseball. I give Rose absolutely zero credit for this admission. He's been an unrepentant liar for 15 years, and has taken too much attention away from more deserving sports figures (his latest victims being this week's Hall of Fame inductees, Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor). Beyond that, the "apology" in his book is self-centered and unconvincing, and this interview with Rose had done the impossible: made me like Pete Rose even less. He is an unreconstructed hack, a liar, a cheat, and he doesn't belong anywhere near a dugout, nor Cooperstown.

Funding Synchronized Swimming

I have spent many words on this blog and elsewhere bemoaning the corporatization of college football, and usually do not get much of an argument. But hidden at the bottom of Stewart Mandel's SI.com mailbag is a relatively straightforward counterargument that has never occurred to me:

It's a double-edged sword. We want to create as many opportunities as possible for student-athletes in a variety of sports, but the fact is, it's expensive to send an entire swimming team to Ann Arbor -- not to mention their scholarships, their equipment, their coaches' salaries, etc. -- for a meet that's going to bring in no ticket or television revenue whatsoever.

According to the NCAA's 2001 survey, the average Division I-A football program brought in $10.9 million in revenue, men's basketball $3.6 million, the other sports $780,000. After expenses, the football teams had a $4.8 million profit and men's basketball $1.7 million, while the other sports lost $1.5 million. So while, yes, major college football and basketball has become disgustingly big business, if we scale it back, you can kiss a lot of golf and wrestling teams good bye.

Food for thought.

Headlines

This one was too good to pass up:

Young Boys' Wankdorf erection woe

Uh huh.

Uh...

I love Peter King. He's a great football analyst and a fun read, and his Monday Morning Quarterback column on CNNSI.com is a weekly staple for me. But he says something so ignorant in this piece on Giants coach Jim Fassel that I have to point it out. The story is about Fassel's reunion with a son he gave up for adoption 34 years ago.

Fassel's story, of course, has a happy ending. But when it began, in 1968, Fassel and his future wife, Kitty, were starting college in southern California. Kitty got pregnant with a baby neither of them felt ready to keep. Abortion, to them, wasn't an option.

Well Peter, since it was 1968, abortion wasn't much of an option for anyone. It was ILLEGAL!

OK, ok, it's just a football column. And I suppose there is a remote possibility that King is pointing out that the Fassel's were unwilling to take the risks of an illegal abortion.

But I think not. Instead I believe King, an intelligent and educated American, has simply forgotten that 35 years ago Mr. Fassel and his wife could have gone to jail for having an abortion. That disturbs me.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has given some vital insight in the comments:

Actually, California's first abortion law was passed in 1967 and signed into law by....Governor Ronald Reagan.

As I recall, it was a pretty restrictive law (no surprise for 1967), but nonetheless abortion was in fact legal here in the Golden State in 1968.

So I'm wrong on the facts, which was the thrust of my objection to King's article. I do still think there's a deeper point, which is that many people forget just how recent it was that many of the rights we now enjoy were not respected (only 50 years since Brown, only 30 years since Roe, etc.)

UPDATE II: Now PG comes back with this:

The 1967 law was based on the Model Penal Code, which allowed abortion for rape, incest, health reasons and life of the mother, none of which would seem to apply for the Fassels.

OK, so maybe I was right on the facts. Still, the health reasons probably included 'mental' health which may have provided an opening for the Fassels. Huh.

Baseball

Though I haven't let it be known too much on this blog, I am a huge baseball fan. I grew up north of Chicago and spent some wonderful afternoons of my youth at Wrigley Field. A few days ago I saw an episode of Ken Burns' Baseball, focused on New York City in the 1950's, when the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants were all competitive teams, and Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Willie Mays all played in the same town.

My first thoughts: Ken Burns is a genius. I just have to watch the rest of that series, and I'm assuming his Civil War and Jazz documentaries are of the same caliber.

Second: It really is a shame how the money has corrupted baseball. I have no doubt that this is equally true of other sports, but am I so wrong in thinking that baseball really used to mean something in this country? Something special?

UPDATE: Charles Kuffner has a very good answer:

The answer to the question is Yes, but the implication is that this is no longer the case. I'd argue that's very much not so, as anyone who watched the 2001 World Series would attest. Attendance figures bear that out as well - take a look at the yearly attendance and average league attendance for the Braves, Cubs, and Yankees, and observe that average attendance in 2002 was nearly triple that of 1952, and with twice as many teams to boot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - there's never been a better time than now to be a baseball fan.

I like that way of looking at it.

Irony on the Pitch

Anyone who has been following English football for some time will note the irony in Arsenal's manager complaining about an opponent for playing too conservatively and focusing on defense:

They concentrated on just defending and made it difficult for us.

We had a great attitude but, when you look at the chances they created, they had nothing.

Softball and Ephedra

For those who don't know, UVA Law is terribly obsessed with softball. We play fall and spring, many students are on multiple teams, and we host a tournament which draws teams from dozens of law schools.

I just walked by the bulletin board which lists teams and standings and saw this post:

After careful consideration, the North Grounds Softball League has decided to ban the use of ephedra and all products containing ephedra for Spring 2003 play.

Could there be a less enforceable rule? Last time I checked, there were no drug tests in law school softball. I can see the efficacy of banning the drug from the playing fields, where the umpire and opposing team can monitor compliance. But to attempt to ban its use without any enforcement/compliance mechanism just seems amusing.

Ephedra

This ephedra stuff is scary. WP article notes that:

Ephedra has been linked to lifethreatening side effects, even when used by outwardly healthy people at recommended doses, because it speeds heart rate and constricts blood vessels. Those effects can be exacerbated by exercise and use of other stimulants such as caffeine...

I'm no bodybuilder, but a couple years ago I saw the ads for ephedra products in Men's Health (think Ripped Fuel), and considered using them. I chose not to, but only after doing sufficient research on the Internet to find that the potential side effects were frightening.

As long as the FDA is in the business of regulating drugs, they ought to be regulating these supplements. I think their inactivity sends the wrong message, as it implies to consumers that all herbal supplements are more safe and harmless than the medicines and drugs that do fall under FDA regulation. This dichotomy is itself dangerous.

UPDATE: CNN/SI's Alexander Wolff lays out a good case for regulating ephedra, but Tim Layden makes some interesting points on why regulation may have limited effects (at least for athletes).